[Thanks so much to Supreme Gleaner Rebecca Dehmassi for sharing this story. If you have a story to share about your fruit picking adventures, by all means send it along to email@example.com.]
We all know about the delicious fruits that Not Far From the Tree volunteers have been harvesting from our urban forest, but did you know that there are also some great non-gastronomical ways to enjoy the bounty? Many of the plants around us can be used to make natural dyes. Aboriginal Peoples have been using dyes made from roots, bark, and lichen to create elaborate regalia. And the beautiful colours in Persian rugs have been traditionally extracted from various flowers.
I recently tried making dye using the elderberry shrub that I planted a few years ago, which is now a vigorous producer of fruit. Those of us who have gleaned elderberries know that the purple fruit is loaded with colour, and I’m reminded of this when I have to clean the dishes after making elderberry jam!
Here’s an easy method I used to transform my ordinary white scarf into a vibrant new purple one.
First I made the mordant, which is the fixative that sets the dye to the fabric so that the colour doesn’t wash away. There are different kinds of fixatives for different dyes and fabrics. I used a simple salt solution – 1 cup of salt for every 8 cups of water. I put the scarf in the solution, brought it to a boil, and simmered for about an hour.
After removing the scarf from the mordant and rinsing in cool water, I immersed it in the dye.