by Cari Marshall and Christine Chism • Photography by Shannon Kintner
One great payoff to surviving the summer heat in Central Texas is the verdant produce growing season that lasts throughout autumn. Favorites that begin to thrive in summer—such as cucumbers, figs, pumpkins and a host of herbs—flourish this time of year, and are not only tasty edibles but also terrific ingredients for a multitude of do-it-yourself bath and body products.
Chilled Cucumber Eye Mask
It’s practically a cliché to suggest chilled cucumbers as a remedy for puffy eyes, but the vegetable—so ubiquitous in this region and crawling and climbing all over our gardens this time of year—is packed with ascorbic acids (vitamin C), caffeic acids, manganese and beta-carotene, which can reduce water retention (the culprit in swollen eyes) and dark circles. Arnica oil, which is derived from a type of sunflower, also helps relieve discoloration in the skin and inflammation.
Mint Hand and Foot Cream
Follow the exfoliating gardener’s soap (recipe at right) with a soothing cream and your hands will be as good as new. Powder from the root of marshmallow plant has excellent anti-inflammatory properties, and has long been known as a powerful demulcent (a soothing product). Beeswax is a naturally nourishing moisturizer, and also contains anti-inflammatory and germicidal elements, which are excellent for healing all those nicks and scrapes from working in the soil. Olive oil is full of inflammation-inhibiting antioxidants, which can repair skin and establish a moisture barrier. Mint is both an aromatic treatment and an effective astringent. This cream is also great for use on the feet. (Cocoa butter, beeswax and marshmallow root powder can be found locally at The Herb Bar.)
Gardener’s Hand Soap
Every gardener knows that working in the soil can take a toll on your hands and fingernails. This exfoliating soap provides an excellent way to rid your fingers of those stubborn layers of sticky soil. Dill is packed with skin-soothing vitamin A, and basil has many antibacterial, antibiotic and antifungal properties. Sea salt and pumpkin seeds are natural exfoliants, and tea tree oil contains antiseptic properties (it was the go-to antiseptic for generations in Australia before the advent of antibiotics).
Fig Skin Polish and Face Mask
Figs—those sweet, leathery-skinned fruits introduced to Texas by Spanish settlers—contain a host of antioxidants and fatty acids, plus magnesium, calcium, potassium and vitamins A, B1, B2 and C, all of which provide excellent benefits for your skin. Mashed, fresh figs have long been used as a remedy for acne, warts, wrinkles and even the early stages of chicken pox (not that we suggest this!). Try this polish and mask once or twice a week to even out skin tone and flush oxidants.