A few weeks ago, blog reader Sandy Lansdale posted a question in the Discussion Forum:
I would love to hear how beeswax wrap works if anyone has tried it. Does it keep food well? How long does one wrap last?
Well, Sandy, as it happens, I did try three different beeswax cloth wraps all the way back in January of this year and meant to write a review of them at the time. But, to be honest, I was less than enthused, and when I’m not excited about something, it’s hard for me to write about it. (Which is why, by the way, I haven’t written a holiday post. Just not my thing.) Still, lots of people have asked me this question, and I know there are quite a few people who are fans of these products, and I myself mentioned their existence in my book, Plastic-Free. So here goes, but first:
BIG DISCLAIMER: I have a VERY Sensitive Nose
I’m going to mention the smell of these wraps and the taste that they impart to food. But you should take my comments with a grain of salt. Apparently, I have much more sensitive olfactory and taste perception than most people. I polled some of the women in my green blogger group on Facebook to find out who had used beeswax wraps and whether they could detect any smell or taste from the wraps, and no one else seems to notice or mind. So you might not either. This is why I waited… er… procrastinated so long in writing this post. I don’t want to turn anyone off from products that might work for them, but I also have to be honest about my personal experience. Okay, really here goes.
My Experiments With Beeswax Cloth Wraps
Abeego and Bees Wrap were the first two companies to send me samples to try out. I decided to test them on blocks of cheese because cheese seems to be one thing that is always wrapped in plastic cling wrap. Before I tell you the results of the experiment, let me tell you a bit about each of these wraps:
Abeego flats are made from hemp, organic cotton, beeswax, tree resin, and jojoba oil. The combination of wax, resin, and oil is what makes the wrap so malleable. I asked Abeego founder Toni Desrosiers why she chose those ingredients as opposed to plain beeswax. Here is what she wrote me:
I have noticed other people exploring the world of beeswax cloth. I love that they are exploring an old technique. We have been waxing cloth since ancient Egypt and have been using beeswax to store food for thousands of years in all kinds of applications. My goal was to create a product that mimicked the useful qualities of plastic wrap using natural materials. In my research I realized that to accomplish this goal I would need to search a bit further than beeswax. Each ingredient we use offers it’s own properties that contribute to the overall effectiveness of Abeego. The blend of ingredients insure a long lifespan, flexibility and adhesiveness. Tree resin is anti fungal, anti bacterial and anti septic. Jojoba oil is anti fungal. Beeswax has a low melting point, it will crack when cold and will flake off in spots where repeated folding is applied.
I did notice in addition to the beeswax scent a kind of piney odor as well. I assume it was from the tree resin. I was curious to find out if the odor would affect the taste of my food. Read on to find out the answer.
Bee’s Wrap is made of organic cotton, beeswax, tree resin, and jojoba oil by Sarah Kaeck in Vermont. When she contacted me last year, I asked how her product was different from Abeego, which has the same ingredients and has been around longer. She said:
Bee’s Wrap is made with organic cotton verses hemp/cotton. The cotton that I use is lighter and I feel easier to mold. Otherwise they are comparable.
By easier to mold, she means to mold around a dish. NOT to grow mold. Even though Sarah’s cloth ostensibly contains the same ingredients as Abeego, it didn’t smell as strong to me. I really just smelled beeswax, which made me wonder if she uses less of the other ingredients.
Abeego vs. Bee’s Wrap vs. a plain cotton wrap in an airtight container
For Experiment #1, I cut three similar-sized wedges of Bellwether Carmody cheese. (Read more about my plastic-free cheese here.)
I wrapped two of them in beeswax wraps and the third (the control) in a plain cotton napkin inside a Lunchbots stainless steel container. Then, I put all three in the refrigerator and left them in there for 10 days.
All three cheeses were equally well-preserved. No mold. Not dried out.
But what about the taste? For me, the Abeego-wrapped cheese had a strong piney sort of taste that interfered with my enjoyment of the cheese. The Bee’s Wrap-wrapped cheese had a subtle beeswax flavor. Less noticeable than the Abeego but still there. The plain cotton-wrapped cheese had no extra flavor. It’s important to note that unlike coated fabric wraps, plain cotton will not keep food from drying out if it’s not also stored in an airtight container.
After completing this little experiment, and just as I was about to post my results here, I learned about a third beeswax wrap and decided to try that one out too.
Suzy’s Bees Wraps are made with only cotton and beeswax. They are the creation of Sue Grant, a stay at home mom in British Columbia. I was happy to receive a sample from Sue so I could put the wraps to the same test as the others.
Suzy’s Bees Wrap vs. plain cotton wrap in an airtight container
For Experiment #2, I used two wedges of parmesan cheese because it’s what I happened to have available that day. (I had asked the person behind the Whole Foods cheese counter to cut me a big hunk of parmesan from a wheel she had just cracked and put it in my container.)
I wrapped one wedge in Suzy’s Bees Wrap and the other in plain cotton, this time inside one of Life Without Plastic’s airtight glass containers.
After 10 days, I removed the cheese. As before, both came through the process exactly the same. (Sorry — I forgot to take a picture.) But what about the taste? I detected a slight beeswax taste to the beeswax-wrapped cheese as compared to the cheese wrapped in plain cotton.
What about moldability?
So, does the absence of tree resin and jojoba oil make Suzy’s wrap less pliable than the other two wraps? Apparently not. Here is Abeego wrapped around a bowl.
And here is Suzy’s Bees Wrap around a bowl. Both fit about the same.
Making Your Own Beeswax Wraps
As Toni Desrosiers mentioned, lots of people are experimenting with making their own beeswax-infused wraps. Leona from My Healthy Green Family has posted a lovely tutorial on how to make your own DIY cotton and beeswax plastic wrap alternative. She further explained in our Facebook group:
I only use beeswax. They don’t give any flavour off and the smell is simply beeswax. They hold up for several months. The wax doesn’t peel off but after repeated folding they aren’t waterproof anymore. You can rewax them.
Whether or not they give off flavor or smell really depends on your sensitivity. I didn’t try this myself, but the post has gotten rave reviews, so if you’re feeling crafty, go for it.
I prefer airtight containers, jars, or bowls with saucers on top
So, Sandy, I can’t tell you how long these wraps last because, after all that experimenting, I am back to using my airtight stainless and glass containers to keep foods fresh. (This weekend, I’m going to post a giveaway for one of my absolute favorite containers. Please stay tuned.) But you know, you don’t have to spend money on containers to store food. I love to reuse glass jars, or for food that will be eaten relatively soon, a bowl with a saucer on top. Another reason the saucer is better than either plastic wrap or beeswax wrap? You can stack things on top!