The hills of western Pennsylvania were beautiful last week with a strong hint of fall in the air. (I had ice on my windshield one morning!) While there, the article on the herb of the month was frequently on my mind.

After four years I’m beginning to run out of common herbs. One warm afternoon I headed off toward the orchard to see how the apple crop was doing. On the way, near a creek I spotted a large plot of jewelweed so here is a bit of information on a very useful plant that does not grow in Texas; although it might be found the far northern reaches of eastern Texas near the Oklahoma and Arkansas borders.

Jewelweed, Spotted Touch-Me-Not (Impatiens capensis) is an annual plant native to the northeastern North America. It grows wild along ditches and creeks in wooded areas.

The flowers are orange and the stems are translucent and succulent with a milky substance that is used to treat dermatitis from poison ivy, poison oak and stinging nettle.

A poultice with the fresh herb can be applied directly to the rash or others make an infused tea and rub the frozen tea cube on the rash.

My friend Tina Marie Wilcox of the Ozark Folk Center in Mt. View, Ark., makes a tincture of jewelweed and apple cider vinegar which she carries with her while foraging in the Ozark woods around the center.

As a child we loved to play with the flowers. The seed pods hang from the flowers and have projectile seeds which explode out of the pods when lightly touched which is where the name ‘touch-me-not’ comes from. A search of the web shows many sites selling lotions, soaps and seeds, thus a very useful plant.

Apples were the big story of the week in Johnstown. The farmer’s market and farm stands along the roadways were overflowing with this year’s crop, along with apple cider, apple butter and candied apples. The local newspaper, The Tribune-Democrat ran this bit of harvest trivia:

• The crab apple tree is the only apple native to North America.

• The pilgrims planted the first apple trees in the Massachusetts Bay Colony.

• 7,500 apple varieties are grown worldwide with 2,500 of those in the U.S.

• Apples ripen 6 to 10 times faster at room temp, rather than in the refrigerator.

• Leave the peel on; it contains two-thirds of the fiber and lots of antioxidants.

• Red Delicious is the most widely grown apple in the United States.

• Apples are the second most valuable fruit crop in the U.S. topped only by oranges.

• Newton Pippin was the first apple exported from America. The year was 1768 and some were sent to Benjamin Franklin in London.

• Some apple trees will grow to more than 40 feet high and live more than 100 years.

There are apples and many more fresh fruits and vegetables available at the Waxahachie Downtown Farmers Market every Saturday. Come visit and enjoy the bounty of an October harvest.

Ellis County Master Gardeners have a website at www.ecmga.com. Check this website for information on gardening in Ellis County, sign up for a monthly newsletter or access other websites including Texas A&M Horticulture website. Questions for Master Gardeners will be answered with a return telephone call or email if you leave a message at 972-825-5175.