It has probably been almost a decade since the first time I came across enough bayberries to harvest and "render". We were spending a few days along the shore in Delaware, and the large bushes were everywhere, heavily laden with bunches of the tiny berries hidden close to the wood. They were so fragrant, and the cup or so of berries that came home with me yielded a few ounces of wax. The process filled our home with heavenly scent for days.
I was hooked.The following spring we found a large stand of bushes during a local herb festival, and talked to the groundskeeper about gathering them in the fall. From then on, we've been using it in the bayberry soap made at my sister's soap company.
The following year, her husband got 25 bushes in (he doesn't do things in a small way), and they had a few berries last year. They are reaching maturity now, and this year there are many berries. We will use our own wax this fall.
Bayberry is also known as Candleberry, Sweet Gale, and Wax Myrtle, among several other names. Historically the root bark is used medicinally, and is an astringent.
The leaves are wonderfully aromatic and can be used in place of bay leaves. The berries mature to a deep, almost black blue, and become covered with tiny balls of wax that makes them appear white.
When they are boiled, the wax releases from the berries and floats to the surface. It is extremely dense, and takes on a deep pea-green color.
It is often used in candle-making, and it adds a hardness to soap that helps make it long lasting.