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 dig...at 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!