Each year in Texas spring is ushered in by beautiful blue waves of the Texas state flower, Lupinus texensis, or the Texas bluebonnet. Typically flowering anywhere from January to June in Texas, the bluebonnet is actually a family of six different species found throughout the state. The flowers themselves are not hard to find, they are typically spotted alongside highways, in ditches, fields, greenbelts, and even along the shores of many of the Texas lakes. The blue, fragrant flowers are so popular that the Department of Transportation provides maps to help flower enthusiasts and amateur as well as professional photographers locate the best patches.
Aside from the natural beauty of the bluebonnet, the plant has a long beneficial relationship with the Lone Star State. The flower first came to prominence during Spanish rule, when the priests were so taken with the flowers, they began to plant them around the missions. But humans are not the only species taken by the flowers. Anyone who has sat in a patch of bluebonnets knows that it is a busy metropolis for beneficial insects, kind of the Dallas for bugs. You will frequently find bees, spiders, butterflies, and ladybugs hanging out one the small blue flowers.
Beyond the arrival of bluebonnets, the other great thing about spring in Texas is the arrival of bluebonnet soap. Due to the short blooming season, and the above average difficulty of cultivating bluebonnets the soap will often only be available for a limited time. While recently bluebonnet has become available on the commercial markets for soap makers, I still believe that to experience true Texas bluebonnet soap you have to get out and procure your own bluebonnets, or buy soap from someone who does. For the past 6 years we have cultivated a private crop of the flowers, allowing them to grow in the wild with minimal intervention. What started as a small patch of 30 or so plants, now covers almost a quarter of an acre, allowing plenty of flowers for soap, while also leaving plenty to share with our neighbors for pictures, as well as food for the local birds, bees, butterflies, and our friendly ladybugs.
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We start in very early spring, collecting flowers from the patch, being very careful to never pick enough at any one time that a person could tell that any were taken. Each harvest is taken from random areas of the field, being careful to make sure that all of the beneficial insects are free from the flowers before collecting them.
One we have collected the flowers, they are washed and left to soak in clean water for several hours. They are then hand sorted and trimmed to remove any dead material, and stems. The stems and discarded material are recycled through the garden as a source of nitrogen.
The remaining flowers are spread onto screens and loaded into the dehydrator for at least two days at 110 degrees to ensure they are completely dry, while preserving the beautiful blue color.
The flowers, once dry, are then ground to add into soap, or simply crushed to use to sprinkle onto the finished soap. Ground bluebonnets give the soap a wonderful blue color, and provide a very earthy, Texas scent that is unique from any other soap I've ever used.
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Every Texan can appreciate a good locally sourced, sustainable soap that captures the very essence of the state we are all proud to call home. If you aren't lucky enough to be a Texan, bluebonnet soap is one of just a handful of true, Texas experiences you can have without coming to the state.
Each spring when I drive the Texas highways I'm reminded how lucky I am to call this state home. Don't miss out on a once in a lifetime opportunity to experience a piece of Texas, try bluebonnet soap this spring before it is all gone!
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