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What's in Bloom at the Edison & Ford Winter Estates?

Archive for October, 2009

The Down and Dirty on Gardener’s Soap

Posted by Edison Ford Winter Estates On October 20th

Gardener’s soap has been popular with gardeners and folks who use their hands in their work for many years. There are many and various ingredients used in Gardener’s Soaps and here’s a glossary to help you choose the right one for you.

Exfoliants are used to make soap into a Gardener’s or Mechanic’s soap. The size and shape of the exfoliant grains determine the abrasiveness.

  • Nut hulls are characterized by relatively sharp edges and can be very abrasive. The grinding process may render small size particles, but the edges of the particles remain sharp and can create small microscopic tears in the skin.
  • Seeds, such as raspberry, strawberry or cranberry have round edges and will exfoliate some, but typically rely on the cleansing power of the soap they are suspended in to remove any dirt. They are best combined with another exfoliant to get dirty hands really clean.
  • Pumice is available in fine to coarse grades. Fine pumice will boost the cleaning power of the soap it is in and help remove greasy dirt along with cleansing oils which are added to make the soap more effective. Coarse pumice is too abrasive for hands.
  • Coffee grounds are used in soap as exfoliators. Depending on the size of the ground bean particles the soap can be effective as an exfoliator or not.
  • Grain meals are also used in Gardener’s soaps to add cleaning power. Oatmeal may be harsh if it is not cooked before adding it to the soap. The whole oat grain itself is relatively large as an exfoliating agent and may just stick out of the bar and not really do much to remove deep dirt. Cooked, ground oatmeal is a nice soft exfoliant and can be used on the face, if care is taken to gently wash the face. Cornmeal is used in Gardener’s soap as it exfoliates, is biodegradable and is compatible with Essential Oils used to increase cleaning power in soap.

Essential Oils are also important to the efficacy of Gardener’s soap. The most often used oils are Lemon, Orange, Tea Tree, Lavender and Peppermint. All work to remove smells and scents from plant material and help to cut the oil component of grime. Care should be taken to keep Peppermint oil based soaps from sensitive areas of skin.

How to choose the right gardener’s soap for you:

  • Lavender Tea Tree Soap with cornmeal will clean your hands of dirt that you would typically pick up during potting or planting.
  • Heavier dirt will need a Pumice component. The Lemon Pumice Soap will also cut through heavy odors as well due to the Lemon Essential Oil.
  • If you’ve been puttering around the yard and want to clean your hands but don’t need to exfoliate, then the Peppermint Cream Soap will leave your hands clean and soft. It has added oils to leave your skin soft. A small amount (about ½ teaspoon) will clean your hands effectively.

Sanibel Skincare Gardener’s Soaps and other soaps are available at the Edison & Ford Winter Estates Museum Store and Ford Cottage Shoppe.

Plant Spotlight: Calamondin

Posted by Edison Ford Winter Estates On October 16th

By Debbie Hughes, Estates Horticulturist

calamondin tree

           The calamondin is thought to be a cross between a mandarin (tangerine), and a kumquat thus the botanical name, x citrusfortunella microcarpa.  Calamondins are quite small however when you bite into one of these little gems, your taste buds will perk up. The vitamin-C packed fruit is sour on the inside, but the peel is very sweet.  Many people are not familiar with this mandarin relative, but they were imported from China and have been grown throughout Florida since the early 1900’s.  

            Once picked, the fruit doesn’t last longbut you can juice or freeze them for future enjoyment.  When picking the fruit, use scissors or pruners leaving some stem on to increase the shelf life. Calamondin plants are sensitive to frost and grow best in warm climates.  However, potted calamondins can be brought inside during the winter in colder climates. 

Uses for Calamondin:

  • Ice Cubes: Freeze the fruit whole on a cookie sheet.  Once frozen, store several frozen fruit in a freezer bag and use as ice cubes in iced tea.   
  • Calamondinade: Stir in 1 cup of calamondin juice to 4-6 cups of water adding simple syrup to taste and a pitcher full of ice cubes for a refreshing drink.
  • Calamondin Pie: Substitute juice of calamondin for key lime in your favorite key lime pie recipe. 
  • Calamondin Marmalade: Made the same way as orange marmalade.

            There are several calamondin trees at the Edison & Ford Winter Estates adding to the repertoire of edible plants Mr. Edison grew on the property. The Estates Garden Shoppe has calamondin trees for sale along with many other types of citrus including grapefruit, kumquat, orange, lime, lemon, limequat, and kafir lime.  You can purchase Estates fruits at the Downtown Fort Myers Farmers’ Market on Thursday mornings. 

Click “More” to view Recipe for Calamondin Cake

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