Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Jewelweed Really Is

The Baron and I were out doing errands today. Since the weather was lovely, warm but not really August-in-Virginia warm, we stopped at various places of remembrance. I call them that because they are either scenes he painted when he was a landscape artist, or they were spots we knew where second-bloom honeysuckle could be found for the taking. Some of them were simply old haunts that time is changing.

The second bloom is lighter than the first, and not nearly so fragrant. I picked some anyway. On the other hand, Autumn clematis is running riot over everything, smelling up the place. That is, blooming everywhere except where I planted it. Since it grows wild almost anywhere you look, I’ll be darned if I’ll actually buy a pot of the stuff. Instead, this time I’ll dig it up and pot it myself. Once the roots are over the shock, I can transplant it more successfully. Live and learn: plants, like children, do not like to be jerked around. Autumn clematis is one of those flowers you don't want too close to the house. Close enough to get the wafts of perfume, but not so close that the bees and such are chasing you.

Joe Pyeweed is in full flower. You can smell the vanilla in some of the varieties, especially the tall ones. False boneset is out but the tickseed sunflower has hardly begun and I don’t see any Ironweed. Maybe it’s late in this year of strange weather.

Jewel WeedWe saw jewelweed everywhere. It’s in full bloom now. I’ve been meaning to gather some for poison ivy treatment, but somehow each season gets by before I notice the blooms are gone. Then I'm stuck trying to identify the plant without its characteristic flower. It's a lovely small blossom but the plant itself is non-descript and tends to blend into the other foliage when not flowering.

This year I'm on it! I am going out bright and early tomorrow. Or maybe in the cool of the late afternoon is more realistic. I’ll bring home enough to make a concoction to have on hand when people run into poison ivy. It really does work like a charm.

Here’s my favorite method:

Get a bunch of the stuff, maybe four or five plants. Wash them, chop them up, flowers and all, until you have a moist mush. A blender would do fine.

Simmer that with a bit of distilled water. When it looks like the liquid is down by half, let it cool. Strain this through whatever you have handy – some cloth that you won’t mind having stained brownish green – and pour the liquid into a dark glass container.

Refrigerate this (a few days is okay) until you have time to clean out an ice cube tray. Then freeze the liquid in cubes. Don’t leave them in the tray as they’ll desiccate, or evaporate, or whatever it is that self-defrosting freezers do to liquid over time. I’d put them in a plastic freezer bag, well-sealed and especially well-marked. I’ve learned the hard way about tossing unmarked bags into a freezer and assuring yourself that you’ll remember what those cubes are. You won't.

If you have an ice cube tray with tiny compartments, that would be the best for freezing smaller cubes. Lacking one of those, just use a regular tray.

The ice cube can be applied to a poison ivy rash at any stage. Used at least twice a day, it will resolve the rash with far fewer blisters. It’s also effective on athlete’s feet.

Jewelweed is a member of the impatiens family. This makes me doubt that it would dry well, but what the heck. I’ll hang some upside down and see what happens. It probably won’t be pretty. More like a wet mess after a day or two.

Can’t hurt to try, right?