Sunday, March 16, 2008

Soapnut Seeds

Looky! Seeds!!

Here's a pic of what arrived in the mail from the Seedman recently...soapnut tree (Ritha/Reetha) seeds! They were received with great excitement!

If you've ever read about Soapnuts, they are a natural dried fruit (inedible) that's being used by many as a replacement for laundry detergent as well as body cleanser and shampoo.

They have found a very receptive modern market for those who desire a sustainable and eco-friendly product. Soapnuts have received enthusiastic reviews by many users since they are gentle enough for those with allergies, strong enough to get clothes really clean, reuseable several times before discarding to a compost pile, keep clothing colorfast, both soften and clean (which removes the need for laundry softeners for those who use them), and are adaptable to a wide range of cleaning applications...from household to body cleanser and shampoo/conditioner.

Soapnuts are considered by many to be a very economical alternative to laundry detergent. For ourselves, after having inquired of some wholesalers, we've found that the prices of this product still exceed what we find is economical for our own budget. Their retail prices, for us, are much beyond our comfort zone. We will still purchase a few as we go along, in order to experiment with them as cleaners in the meantime. Despite what I frequently hear from some people, making the switch from modern conventional products to organic is not, as yet for us, an inexpensive process. Getting set up for independence requires many overhauls and a good deal of experimentation...and special attention to the budget.

But I digress...

Here's another closeup. My husband read up about their germination, and he decided we should soak the seeds in very warm water for 24 hours prior to planting. We're not using a grow light simply because we don't have one, but the seeds were soaked, planted together in a pot of good soil, and J made a wire mesh cover to fit over the top in case curious raccoons decided to have a the cost of a dollar a seed, these aren't toys :)

The enclosed literature had detailed germination instructions we found helpful, and hopefully in several weeks (or it even stated a few months), we hope to have some sprouting! The planted seeds are currently in a shaded but warm spot in Bucketville, letting the warm Florida days help them along till we're further along towards summer, at which time they'll be rescued and find themselves porched on the lanai in order not to bake to death.

Simultaneously, we received the little 18"seedling whips for the 4 native Western Soapberry trees (shown below), a plant whose berries reputedly have been used by our native populations in the past in much the same way the soapnuts are.

They don't look like much here, but from humble beginnings we hope to arrive at some lush and productive native trees! Soapberries or soapnuts, or both, we hope to one day have a bountiful supply for cleaning our clothing, home, and bodies much more healthfully AND sustainably.

And affordably! How long will it take? We're not sure. (Here's to headstarts) We do know the annual fruit harvest of ONE mature soapnut tree can provide far more fruits in a single year than one family can possibly use. Which is great news, since that means we could SHARE, and give others access to this resource AND have plenty of berries to give out for FREE :)

If you've had any experience using or growing these fruits, we'd love to hear your feedback and any advice you might have!


michelle said...

I found your website while doing a search for soap nut tree seeds to buy. I found out a little later in my search that the tree takes 10 years to produce the first crop of seeds. A little discouraging, but I think I'll still go for it... Have fun!

Robbyn said...

Welcome, glad you found your way here!

I had no idea it takes that long for them to produce, but even so, once they do start bearing, it sounds like there is an overabundance of fruit once they make it to that's hoping! It would certainly be a nice little cottage business in our dotage, eh? :)

jerysmiles said...

I just found this and was wondering (4 years later) if they are producing yet. I'm thinking about growing some, myself. Thanks!

Robbyn said...

Jery, after germination we found they died back in the winter, so we'll have to try again with a greenhouse, which we don't have. We'll most likely concentrate on a plant that's more hardy to our growing zone, some other saponin-rich plant. We have land now and will be making a new push to find one :) Thanks for following up!

Jenni said...

I just found this website. I too am interested in growing my own soap producing plants. I was curious if you did find any other saponin plants that would grow well here in the states.

Erika said...

HI there
Do you think a soap berry tree will grow on the NT?

We live in Darwin