Tuesday, 2 December 2008

second woad harvest and process

On 14 October I cut and started processing the second woad crop. Possibly I could have left it for longer but with more bad weather forecast and as the plants had grown quite quickly since the last harvest in early September, I didn't want to risk losing them altogether.

In total from Helen's and my four pot plants I cut 625 grams of leaves, which is 125 g more than at the last harvest. However, I seem to have made only 1.4 grams of woad pigment, or as I should call it to be more correct, indigotin. Last time around it was about 2 grams. I have a couple of theories for this, some related to growing and the other to processing.

This time I didn't spend an hour beating the strained liquid trying to get the foam to go yellow. I beat it for only about ten minutes with the hand-wind whisk - thinking that as blue has come up into the foam that should be enough. I since have read somewhere that it's far better to whisk for much longer, even if your arms start aching (as mine did last September), because that way you get all the potential indigotin out. So, short cuts and laziness are not worth pursuing! I will beat until my arms go blue (again) next time.

On the growing side, the middle picture here shows two groups of short leaves and one of long leaves. The left hand ones I grew here, the right two groups Helen grew. Those on the far right came from one of several well-grown plants, grown on under an improvised cloche (a large plastic demijohn with base removed). These plants had begun to take on the expected shape and density of a woad plant, although were still smaller. But 'something' in or lacking in the soil has prevented the plants from taking up/creating blue pigment in their leaves - I believe they got more direct sunshine at Helen's than the plants outside my house (though being in front of a sun-trap wall may have made a difference to mine). But my woad plants also had an additional caffeine shot... topped up with more Rainforest Alliance coffee dregs. They also had orange street-light by night.

By chance, an official Met Office rainfall recorder lives in the village - he's been recording for over 40 years now. His recent article in the local newsletter gives July and August of this year as his wettest and fourth wettest ever. With the first week of September having a further 107 mm, those two months plus week gave the village around a third of our annual average, and in the usually drier months. So it was wet. Very wet. Luckily though, the rest of September was better - some very hot days (or was that in October?). Certainly I thought the drier sunnier days would help with 'bluing' the leaves. As they did - thankfully - with keeping the slugs at bay!

So I am surprised to have ended up with less indigotin from more leaf. I have some other thoughts about the growing process to go in another post later.

1 comment:

tumbleweed said...

this is the true magic of plant dyes....so many variables; water, geography, micro-climate etc.
best wishes
india flint