Monday, April 25, 2011

Beet Red

I have been researching natural dyes to use in my soaps. Not an easy task since the lye ingredient necessary to turn the base oils into soap defies most attempts at color change and fragrance retention. But, what about beets? Would the dark, blood red, beetroot juice hold up enough in the chemical process to produce a blush-colored bar of soap?

I picked up some fresh beets (beautiful in their own right), cut them into cubes, boiled them in water, and then used the resulting beet juice in my soap recipe. Even as I poured the soap solution into the mold, I could tell that the color was no where near red, pink or even blush. If anyone is interested in an oddly tan-colored bar of soap that smells like Peony, let me know.

Even though beet juice proved a bust in my soap making test, I did discover that the nutrient-rich, root by-product still offers a wealth of promising health benefits. It has been shown to lower blood pressure, improve stamina, and even fight inflammation. There is evidence to support its effectiveness in increasing the number of cancer-destroying cells in the colon. And, perhaps most encouraging of all, is a recent Wake Forest research study that found that a daily dose of beet juice could promote brain health in older adults, potentially combating the progression of dementia.

I say, drink up!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

The Great Casting Call

This first weekend in April is an important time in my home-town hamlet of Roscoe, New York (a.k.a Trout Town USA). April 1st marks the official opening day of the fly fishing season and, much to the dismay of the trout and the delight of the town merchants, the weekend that ushers in a flurry of activities and visitors.

If you don't think this is serious business—read on. There is a lottery to determine who will throw the First Cast of the season at Junction Pool. There are local politicians in attendance and a celebrity guest caster (this year there were two: Best Supporting Actor Oscar Nominee for The Kids Are Alright, Mark Ruffalo, and jazz pianist and Grammy winner Laurence Hobgood). There are special activities at the Catskills Fly Fishing Center, from live demonstrations on fly tying to historical collections representing the best in the craft. And, if that isn't enough, there is the two-headed trout dinner at the Rockland House . . . an annual occurence since the 1940s.

Now, before you conjure up images of actual two-headed trout rising from the river or arranged with garnish on a dinner plate, the "two-headed" reference comes from a legend surrounding Junction Pool where the Beaverkill and Willowemoc rivers converge. The fable tells of a trout, the Beamoc, who, upon arriving at Junction Pool, was so torn by whether to swim up the Beaverkill or the Willowemoc that it sprouted two heads. Cut! End scene!