It’s horse-chestnut time!!!! For my first Orla-post, I wanted to share with you my newly found knowledge about this fall staple: the conker.
Fall is a beautiful season, the colours are just amazing, trees are covered in red, orange, yellow and green. I just love it! As a kid, I always noticed theses conkers lying everywhere on my way home from school. Today every one of them represents a remainder of the good old times. I used to fill my pockets with the fresh fallen ones. Feeling their smooth skin in my hand was just pure pleasure. As we get older, we don’t take the time to collect the most attractive ones anymore. This year, I planned to change your mind by revealing many original ways to use them. I made a list, which was way too long to make an interesting article out of it. So I decided to test the most surprising one: making glue.
This idea came to me as I was reading an old blog post that I can’t find back. However, I decided to give it a try, and made, or “cooked”, the mousse-like substance that would be used on a collage. I called it the “White paper square on white paper” (no reference to any modernist masterpiece). After drying, and it came as a total surprise, the paper seemed to be glued, but only until you tried to move it. FAIL. The glue turned into powder after drying. It didn’t hold the paper pieces together. Worst article idea ever!
I went back to the basics. What exactly is a conker? It’s the seed from the Aesculus hippocastanum, or more commonly the horse chestnut. It is not edible, and poisonous in large quantities. There are two interesting components in it: the ‘poison’ and the other stuff. Aesculine, a blood thinner (the poison), and Aescin, a natural anti-inflammatory, vasoconstrictor and vasoprotector, both of these are saponins, or as I call them organic soaps.
You probably know soap-nuts, the great alternative to industrial soap for your laundry, well conkers are similar and local. After testing multiple methods to extract the saponins from the nut (cold maceration, infusion, pulp mixture, …), I am proud to present you the best one (yet): the conker-glue. Yep, I found out that my first deception turned out to be the very best way to make a washing cream.
If you wish to see it for yourself, here is my secret recipe:
- Collect about 10-20 conkers
- Peel them (easier before they become too hard) and cut the pulp into quarters
- Cover them with water and bring slowly to a simmer
- Blend the mixture until it gets very smooth
- Bring it back to a boil
- Pour it in a clean container
- Leave it to cool
Special touch: add 5 drops of lavender essential oil for the scent and baking soda for a stronger effect.
I really recommend pealing the conkers if you’re dealing with white surfaces as the skin darkens the mixture and can serve as a dyeing agent. Even pealed, some of the tests resulted in having a beige cloth in the end. The glue dyed the least, but still use it with caution on any white clothing. This mixture is perfect to clean any surfaces. I found it very effective on metal, as it gives it a nice shine. I tried it in the shower as well: if you blend less, it will contain more grains that will give you a nice peeling. This method is the only one that took care of a tomato stain on a cloth, maybe because of the grains that help scrubbing the stain off.
While waiting for your conkers to cook, I recommend you create an awesome necklace, by threading the leftovers like beads. or multiple friends to keep you company, by painting on them.
For the curious ones, here is the list that I came up with: Paint them/make jewelry/paint with them/sculpting with them/sculpting on them/make animals/washing with them/make glue/home medicine/preserve them/conkers game/make decoration/insect repellant/varix cream/growing a conker tree
Don’t hesitate to take a look at this fantastic website. It’s in German but might give you some ideas on recipes to try new things with the conker and then comment back here.
Credits : Photos by Alexandre Catulle. Lettering by Linda Dieschbourg.