With the indigo released from the woad leaves all that remains to be done is cleaning. The liquid, which is a dark green to begin, is carefully moved from pail to pail always adding clean water between. Between each pouring the pigment must be allowed to settle before it can be decantered again. And, little by little, the blue pigment emerges from the green cloud.
You’ll remember that the indigo leaves were left steeping in hot water. After the indigo tea had been made I strained away the vegetation (it makes great compost) and added a little bit of sodium carbonate to raise the PH of the liquid. Now everything was ready …
The magical part of making indigo happens during the aeration. Up until that point everything is green as you would expect. The final step is introducing oxygen into the liquid. This can be done many ways: Historically people were paid to jump up and down in the industry’s large vats; today, some people pour off the indigo mixture from bowl to bowl, but I like to use a paint mixer on my electric drill. Whichever way it happens, the oxygen creates a wonderful change as you watch the green foam change to a beautiful blue!
Coming back from collecting “Maya Blue clay” gave me a renewed excitement about my woad plants. While I had high hopes initially about my plants, and put a lot of time and effort into creating a place where they could grow, my plants haven’t come up like I had hoped. Maybe there is just too much rain this year, but whatever the cause it was disheartening to not have a whole field of green spring up.
That said, there certainly is enough of a crop to produce some indigo pigment. The plants shown above are a good size and ready to harvest. After collecting a storage bin full, with some help from my children, I set to work.
My first job was to washed the leaves so that my pigment would be nice and clean when I was all finished. Next I shredded all the leaves into salad size greens before I submerged them all into hot water. Here they will steep for a little while before I move onto the next step of creating my indigo pigment.
The woad in last years garden is blooming and I thought it was worth a picture. Second year woad doesn’t have any worth for pigment directly (all the blue-indigo is gone), but the seeds from this plant will continue the growing cycle next year when I plant them.
Happy Dominion Day!