Woad Harvest

Over this part summer my wife and I left a couple of plots “unplanted” in our garden. Instead we shook out last years woad seeds over the earth and let the plots be. As I had hoped, the woad plants grew up among the weeds. But last night it went down to 6 °C (43 °F) and some of the leaves on the plants turned blue. Once this happens, the indigo cannot be extracted from the leaves anymore, so I got to work this morning harvesting the remaining green leaves in the hope that I could still get some indigo pigment this year.

My assistant was available for the morning, so she and I carefully picked woad leaves for a couple of hours.  It was nice work, the morning been sunny but cool; which makes working a pleasure and a way of keeping warm.  In the end we collected a small container of leaves that looked healthy.  We washed the leaves outside and removed most of the dirt before we began cooking the leaves.  I modified the process I used last year in a couple minor ways, but nothing that I expect to have dramatic effects on the outcome of the dye.

This year I also decided to take a more active role in cooling the vat as quickly as possible.  I filled our bathtub with cold water from our well and, after the vats were ready, I put both of them into the cold water.  This produced a lot more steam than last time, but it did cool the vats in under 20 minutes.

Everything went really well up until this point, but when it came time to aerate the mixture I never produced blue foam. This is  is usually an important part of the process.  Usually, while aerating, a green foam forms, which then turns blue before returning to green but at best I got a whitish foam at one point.  I don’t know what this means (maybe the cold effected all the leaves afterall?).

At this point all I can do is let the vats settle and hope that even without the blue foam there will still be some indigo dye.

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