What do I need to do to my bowl? The simple answer:
It depends most on how you are using your bowl. A bowl that is being used regularly for salads is going to need more care than one that holds imitation fruit as a centerpiece. In either case, if you think the surface has become a little dull or dry looking, rub some flax seed oil on it. Just put a bit on a paper towel, rub it into the wood, and rub off all of the excess with a dry paper towel.
That's it, but if you are interested in more details, read on.
Treatment of woodenware with food-safe oils enhances the appearance of, and hinders liquids and food juices from being absorbed by, the wood. I use food-grade flax seed oil to finish the bowls and spoons that I sell. Flax is a plant that was cultivated thousands of years ago and has been used for linen and oil since the beginning of civilization.
Both flax seed oil and linseed oil are the oil of flax seeds. The label "flax seed oil" is used for food-grade oil that is sold in health food stores as an edible product. (Hardware store “Boiled Linseed Oil” has heavy metal drying agents added, and should not be used on food-contact products.) Flax seed oil penetrates the wood fibers and then polymerizes (cures). Therefore, it provides lasting protection since it hardens within the wood, making it an ideal initial treatment. This is not true of non-curing oils such as olive oil or mineral oil.
Walnut oil is another good choice, but may be a problem for those with nut allergies. If you don't have nut allergies, then it's good. You'll find it in well-stocked grocery or health food stores.
Here are some guidelines for care.
When I originally oil bowls and spoons, I use a generous amount of oil and let it soak in. Heat speeds the curing of flax and walnut oil. Placing an oiled bowl or spoon in the sun helps. After awhile wipe off any excess oil to avoid pooled, unabsorbed oil curing on the surface.
This is unnecessary for occasional re-treatment.
The bowl and spoons in this photograph are used in our house. I eat cereal every day from the bowl. The larger spoon is a general-use spoon for cooking, stirring, and serving. The smaller spoons are eating spoons.
What about Wax?
If you'd like to maintain your woodenware with a little more luster, you might consider a beeswax/oil blend. These are food safe as opposed to most furniture waxes that contain harmful solvents. There are some varieties commercially available, or you can easily make your own.
Or Make Your Own...
It's actually pretty easy to make your own oil/beeswax blend. If you'd like to try it, here's what to do:
Put about four fluid ounces (1/2 cup) of flax seed oil in a glass jar along with about 1/2 ounce (by weight) of beeswax (about the size of a one inch cube). Put the jar into a pan of water on the stove and heat just until the wax has completely melted into the oil. Be careful with oil around flame. Stir to assure an even blending, set the jar aside and allow it to cool into a paste. Seal up the jar with a lid, and it is ready to go as you need it.
Just rub some into the wood, allow it to absorb for awhile (even overnight if you want), then buff off the excess with a paper towel.
Of course, you can make a bigger batch, or you can adjust the proportions of oil to wax to make a thicker or a thinner paste. To adjust the consistency , just add more oil or wax and remelt it.