First, I have to thank my new garden assistant, Eric, because he was the first one in three years who followed my instructions to radically prune back my orange jasmine tree (Murraya paniculata) so that I would get lots of flowers. The pruning is needed to produce new growth, and the flowers appear on the new growth. Other gardeners just wouldn’t do it, fearing I would not like the woody, bare look of the tree, but I’m a horticulturist and botanist, and I had the tree managed for many years that way, but I just couldn’t convince them. Oh, well, thank you, Eric, you not only pruned it back, in doing so, you discovered some hummingbird nests, which was wonderful. The snakes, not so much, but they were chased off to protect the birds.
hummingbird nests in orange jasmine tree Feb 22, 2015
So, three months later, on May 2, 2015, I opened the front door, and was surprised and delighted by the pom poms of flower clusters on the orange jasmine! The bees were buzzing around, so I decided to wait two days before harvesting any flowers, to give the bees a chance to eat, drink, and be merry first 🙂 The moon was waxing, in Libra, and that’s always a wonderful time for white flowers.
The orange jasmine has clusters of fragrant blooms, and is a good neighbor to the ylang ylang tree, and the Aglaia Chinese perfume tree 🙂 The number and size of the clusters aren’t back to what they used to be, but I’m grateful for this first flush.
A lovely orange jasmine cluster of flowers
A nice harvest of the flowers. The stems are thin, and scissors do the job, and I just hold a bowl under the clusters as I snip.
You have to not only remove leaves that were accidentally harvested, but you have to look for insects and try to remove as many as possible from the upcoming tincture. There were ants and spiders that immediately fled when the flowers were spread out on a piece of newspaper. I forgot to take a photo of that stage. Then, when I placed the flowers back in the bowl to transport them to the tincture table, I noticed that there was a reason I felt the “honeydew” sticky exudate when I was picking, and the only reason: ants had been transporting aphids to the flowers. Here’s the cycle: ants transport aphids, literally carrying them on their backs, because aphids can’t walk/move/fly. The ants know that the aphids suck sweet nectar from the plant, and excrete it in the form of a sticky ooze known as “honeydew”. The ants can then feed on the honeydew. Well, then, bad news for the aphids and ants! In an organic garden, ladybugs move in to eat the aphids! Thank you, ladybugs.
Every harvest has to be picked over to remove leaves – and insects. The ladybug was enjoying a meal on the aphid bugs, and I carefully picked off the leaf and took her back to the tree and carefully placed her on a flower cluster. Enjoy lunch, ladybug. The aphids were removed by snipping off the stems before the flowers were placed in the tincture.
I have orange jasmine tincture that has had many recharges. I forget how many, but the concentration is monitored with a conductivity meter – it’s strong! It smells incredibly beautiful, a jasmine-like sweetness with no indole.
The alcohol is undenatured organic sugar cane alcohol.
Here’s a basic tincture set up: a stainless tray to catch spills, and a stainless bowl for the strained tincture.
Now, on to the separation of scented alcohol perfume tincture from the spent flowers:
I use a stainless steel potato ricer as an herbal press for small amounts. I was able to fit about half the spent flowers into the first pressing.
Here is a shot of the alcohol draining from the press into the bowl.
The stainless steel tray makes it easy to dump the spent flowers without having to worry about a table surface, as the 190 proof alcohol would eat through a finish, marring the surface.
The new harvest of orange jasmine flowers, minus insects (!) is placed into the jar with the original alcohol tincture, but there’s one last item to check: the lid.
Always check your lids, as alcohol can degrade them. I keep a box of extra lids on hand to replace ones like this. Now the recharge process is all done – for this time.
Note: since I tinctured the spent flowers shown in this post, I conferred with a colleague who has convinced me that perhaps only a few hours to two days is enough tincture time for delicate flowers. I am going to tincture these for one day. I do believe that the essential oils will be stripped from the petals, and that leaving them in longer may contribute to more water being removed from the petals, something I wish to avoid. If you have another time table you like to follow, please do, I’m experimenting, that doesn’t mean you have to. I have used this method with ylang ylang flowers, and it has been very successful.
This series of production photos is for my upcoming book Perfume From Your Garden. I keep adding so much to the book, the publishing schedule has been pushed back – a lot. Have patience, it’s in the works, and will be an treasure of information on how to extract scent from plants, built on 40 years of experience. Follow me on Facebook and Twitter to be updated on the book, and subscribe to this blog to read my posts about all things in natural perfumery.