Bayberry experiment

Bayberries on branch

Bayberries on branch

I’ve recently noticed all the bayberries on the bayberry shrubbery in our back yard and it has been luring me into an experimental mode. So today I picked about 3/4 cup of the tiny blue berries and I have been picking out the tiny stems.

I read up on making bayberry wax on several web pages and learned that bayberry wax is very expensive because it is such a time consuming process to make it. I am a believer. I’ve spent over an hour so far just picking the stems out of these berries. Next I’ll be boiling the berries in a little water and straining it to get the rest of the trash out.

More later…

OK, I’m back after boiling and straining the berries. If I’m lucky I may have 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of wax after the water cools. I wouldn’t have had that much if I hadn’t squeezed the fabric I used to strain the wax tightly around the ball of seeds and berry skins. Then most of the wax stuck to my hands. It is hard for me to imagine how many berries had to be picked and how they separated out all the stems and scraps to make even one single candle. These candles couldn’t have been burned for everyday use.

Now that the liquid has cooled, I see that my predictions were correct. I have about a half teaspoon of wax at the most for all that trouble. Granted, the experienced bayberry wax makers could probably do it faster than my first-time attempts, but this still has to be a time consuming project.

I propose that instead of trying to make the candles, one simply gather a large handful of these tiny berries and either boil them on the stove or put them into the top of an oil warmer and heat them for the fragrance. They did add a lovely fragrance to my kitchen as I tried my experiment. Using this approach, the stems probably wouldn’t need to be removed either.