Soapberries have very round, very black, very hard seeds. They are proportionally quite heavy, making up almost half of the total weight of a soapberry pod. When we first started working with them, we tried to carefully cut the end off of the pod to get the seed out. If the pod was a bit sticky, it would cling to the knife, making it a bit of a mess to remove the seed. We tried a razor blade, which was sharper, but even more awkward. We actually opened quite a few that way until we happened upon a YouTube video about harvesting soapberries in Nepal. The video showed ladies whopping the pods with a board of some kind. That looked a lot easier than what we were doing, so we gave it a try. If you hit the pod just right, that little black seed pops right out. Pretty neat. With the help of our friend Oliverio, that is how we de-seeded the berries for the first two years. Very time consuming and not at all cost effective.
We decided we needed to come up with something better for getting all of those seeds out of all of thse little pods. We tried a coffee de-pulper, which sort of worked at first, if the berries happened to be of the right size and weren’t too sticky. Within a couple of weeks, the soapberry seeds were smashing in the metal nubs that were meant to remove the seeds from the pod. We tried putting nails in the notches to keep the nubs in place. Not a good idea.
In our little town, we happen to have a mechanical genius. At least that is his reputation. We took our soapberry seed problem to him and he started to work. It took him a lot longer than he thought it would—a sticky problem you might say–but it looks like he has found a solution. Our new handy-dandy soapberry de-seeder is ready to go for this year’s harvest. We will keep you informed!