It’s not as the title suggests. But I couldn’t really resist seeing I spent a big chunk of my time during the last Christmas/New year break dabbling in extracting indigo from my homegrown plants and revelling in seeing the blues emerge from the vat. It’s still so ephemeral for me a novice in this business of extracting the dye. But I can see how dabblers in this art eventually get hooked.
I’m persisting despite my fair share of failure and disappointment. There have been smelly vats and potions discarded after I’ve waited patiently for the blue to emerge.
Woad (isatis tinctoria) is a successful grower in my Bunbury, Western Australian garden. I sourced seeds from All Rare Herbs many years ago when they were still being mailed to WA. I’ve since discovered that WA is not on their list for shipment of these seeds any longer. Thankfully however, I have saved seeds from the original plants and am now into the third generation of woad plants that have become acclimatised to the local conditions here. Unlike places where woad is classified a weed, in my dye garden it occupies a special place. The few plants that are currently growing continue to be nurtured so I can avail of the leaves that seem to take forever to emerge after I’ve almost stripped them for the dye pot. Woad also seems to grow beyond the second year here although the leaves get smaller compared to the growth in the first year. The plants grow through the hot summers and cold winters. I’ve only collected the leaves during summer as I’ve read that the dye content is higher then. But I should try some extraction during winter once my plant collection increases.
An exciting discovery in my indigo quest has been Japanese indigo (persicaria tinctoria). I was very excited to try this variety with seeds purchased from All Rare Herbs as a lot of posts in the online Facebook forum Indigo Pigment Extraction Methods referred to this plant as a viable source of pigment. From the ten seedlings that I managed to plant out last spring, I fastidiously tip pruned the plants over three times for extraction. Needless to say I could only collect around 600g of leaves each time for a minuscule amount of dye in the end. However, the process was educational and always exciting to see the blue pigment emerge. I guess I can now proceed with confidence and grow more plants the next season from the abundant flowers that are currently showing. There will be enough seeds for me to sow lavishly. The only challenge will be to find enough growing space in my small garden.
So off I go to check the pot with leaves just harvested this morning. It is a never-ending cycle once you catch the indigo bug that’s for sure!