Our 2023 EFN seed catalogue is now online! 100+ new varieties. Over 40 different growers and foragers from across the country. A million thanks to all who make this possible, especially our amazing seed-house crew!
Bouncingbet, Sweet William, or Soapwort (and sometimes just called saponaria), is a carnation-family (Caryophyllaceae) perennial with fragrant and pretty white to pink flowers up to three feet tall. The blossoms are vespertine, meaning they open in the evening. It is native to Eurasia but naturalized in much of the eastern US. It has various medicinal uses, as an expectorant and treatment for skin problems and rheumatism. Predictably — given one of its common names indicates — it is also used to make soap.
We became interested in this plant when we learned of its use in the production of halva, the famous Middle Eastern sweet made from sesame paste (or, to a lesser extent, sunflower paste — as depicted in the photo here). If you look closely at halva with saponaria in it — including in the photo here — you might notice fine filaments throughout. These act as emulsifying agents and help give structure to the food. (This website gives instructions on how to do it at home: https://theepicentre.com/spice/soapwort/). Unprocessed soapwort is very high in saponins, which makes it toxic to consume as is.
Hardy to Zone 3, saponaria is a lovely addition to any flower garden.
Our seed was imported from Germany by the good folks at Sheffield's Seed Company in Locke, NY.
GROWING TIPS: Warm stratify seeds for 2-4 weeks, then cold stratify for 4 weeks, maintaining even moisture throughout. Sow seed 3/8" deep, tamp down soil, and keep bed well weeded and mulched. Seeds may take between 2 and 8 weeks to germinate.