Fresh Wraps: A Natural and Artistic Alternative to Food Storage
Trying to lighten your footprint on the world? One of the best ways we can do so is by using less plastic. I pack my lunch in Mason jars, use reusable canvas bags at the grocery store, and keep refillable water bottles handy. When I learned about beeswax wraps as a natural and sustainable alternative to plastic wrap, I jumped at the opportunity to visit Rachel Rydingward, maker of Fresh Wraps by W&E Coastal, to experience her artistry and diligence in creating beeswax wraps.
We usually think of honey as the most essential product from the beehive, but beeswax has been used for centuries in a variety of ways. In Europe, beeswax was used as a form of currency, and the Chinese regarded beeswax as an effective medical ingredient. Beeswax has also been used in several ancient art forms – lifelike paintings by the Greeks and Romans, Indonesian and Chinese batik art, and the famous wax sculptures of Madame Tussauds. In early Greek poetry, bees were described as the “Birds of Muses,” bringing order with their hives and their art. I’d like to think that Rachel is like the bee, industrious and dedicated in producing a natural, beautiful product.
When Rachel’s daughter, Emma, was born, Rachel wanted to find a way to earn an income while still having time with her young daughter. That’s when she began making wraps, first as a naptime project while Emma slept, and then for the purpose of selling them in markets around West Hartford, including the West End Farmers’ Market. The past year has been very exciting for Rachel; her wraps are for sale on Etsy and in four Connecticut stores: Cookshop Plus in West Hartford, Featherly Ever After in North Branford, The Smithy Store in New Preston, and Soulbury in Woodbury.
Excluding raw meat, the wraps can be used for just about anything for which you would normally use plastic wrap or foil.
The wraps are washable, reusable, and will last about a year depending on how often you use and care for them. The wraps should only be washed with cool water (warm water will melt them), and if messy, they can be washed with a droplet of mild alcohol-free soap (like Mrs. Meyers). They can also sometimes be revived by “re-waxing.” To do this, place the wraps on parchment paper on a cookie tray and bake at 190 degrees for about 5 minutes in order to re-coat the wrap. Pin the wraps on a line to dry and they will harden and dry quickly.
I watched Rachel’s process in her small, cozy kitchen. The wax smelled heavenly as she brushed it on the colorful, patterned fabric, and I immediately understood how it could be very therapeutic. The beeswax wrap process is fairly straightforward. First, Rachel lays out fabric she has pre-cut, then runs a lint roller brush along it to get any last stray bits of lint. Next, she heats up the beeswax and jojoba oil in a small crockpot. The fabric is put on a designated beeswax-only cookie sheet and she uses a natural hair paintbrush to lightly coat the wax over the fabric. The wrap is placed in a 190-degree oven, heated for about 5 minutes, and hung on a drying rack.
The wraps are washable, reusable, and will last about a year depending on how often you use and care for them.
The beeswax and jojoba have natural antibacterial and anti-fungal qualities that help to keep it clean and fresh.
The wraps have a faint scent of honey and the fabric designs are super cute (the spring version of fuzzy aliens is so charming). The wraps are wonderful for keeping avocados fresh and warding off the dreaded grey bloom. They can also be shaped over a bowl of leftovers by pinching with your fingers or hugging with your hands, as the warmth of your skin adheres the wrap to the bowl. Perhaps most fun of all, they can be used for wrapping up fruit in sealable pouches, like carnival-style popcorn pouches for kids’ lunches. Emma tells her mom that it’s like opening a present. I bought a variety package of Fresh Wraps for myself at Cookshop Plus and I love them. I recently learned how to make my own bread (baguettes and naan seem to be my family’s favorite) and I find that the beeswax wraps are perfect for oddly shaped bread because it keeps the bread fresh and the crusts crisp. I have also found that heavily scented foods, like onions and some cheeses, do not transfer their smell to the beeswax. The only drawback that I’ve found is sometimes I’m not sure what I’ve wrapped up because the wraps are not transparent, but that’s a very small inconvenience and, as Emma said, it’s like opening a present!
The beeswax smelled heavenly as she brushed it on the colorful, patterned fabric.