Monday, February 20, 2017

10 Plants for Color is here!!

I am so happy to announce, after a long hiatus, that we did it! I am thrilled to have partnered with Helen Krayenhoff, an incredible nurserywoman, watercolorist and textile artists to publish "10 Plants for Color: A Simple Guide to Growing and Using Dye Plants." 

Just in time for indoor seed starting and spring planting, we are thrilled to announce the release of 10 Plants for Color: a Simple Guide to Growing and Using Natural Dye Plants.  This is a great choice for the gardener who has never tried dyeing and the dyer who has never tried gardening and all those in between. Full of information for natural dyeing and gardening, this book describes each plant with cultural and historic info, how to start plants from seed, and much more — complemented by Helen's beautiful illustrations. There are dye recipes for each plant and helpful hints gained from years of our collective gardening and dyeing experience.

Join us at an upcoming event in Berkeley: 

March 12  |

April 1 |


Wednesday, May 27, 2015

UNFARMED: Plum Leaf Dye

I was thrilled to be a part of a very neat project called UNFARMED. The wonderful video making couple Alana and Paul came over and we spent two days making plum leave dye and sewing an outfit for the little one. Click on the caption to view the short film they made. Thank you! 

Wednesday, April 9, 2014


Hi friends,

I'm so happy to announce the release of a series of articles from the Bay area natural dye community 'Verdant Color.'  I was inspired by old journals that the Brooklyn Botanic Garden used to publish on dyeing and thought we needed something from the Bay Area to show the wealth of knowledge we have and the cutting edge experimentation that is going on right now.  It's the first publication from 'plantspeople' and I hope it will become an yearly one.

I hope that you will enjoy the journal. It is available online for free via ISSUU. If you would like to purchase a print copy you can contact me directly:

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Deepavali Marandhu (Diwali Medicine)

Perhaps the season has somewhat passed for this post, but I'm going forward anyhow because this is one of my favorite subjects and a favorite pursuit of mine. Each year during Deepavali my mom would pull our a strange jar of something that resembled tar and give each of us a spoonful. It was Diwali medicine and supposed to be good for health and taken to mitigate the over consumption of sweets. It might be worth bringing up now because I know I've been over indulging in Christmas cookies, persimmon puddings, peppermint barks and the like!  I never liked the taste of this stuff this growing up, but enjoyed the ritual. Now as an adult I found myself so curious about this medicine, its ingredients and preparation. I gave my mom an assignment on her last visit to Chidambaram, the small town in Tamil Nadu where my family home is. I asked her to find out the recipe for Deepavali marandhu and bring home the raw ingredients. It brings together 6 herbs with honey, nei (ghee) and vellum (jaggery/raw cane sugar) the recipe will come in the next post, but for now here are the ingredients. Other recipes also include cumin, cardamom, and black pepper corns.  Some recipes also include poppy seeds, clove and turmeric. 

Piper longum - roots

Kanda thippili is also a delicacy used in one version of the South Indian staple soup "Rasam"

Piper longum - dried fruits

A sharp alternative to the usual pepper corns, Indian Long Pepper was another spice that set the world to wars over its discovery

After much research I still cannot ID what this is - help?

Zingiber officinale - dried ginger root

There are thousands of documented uses worldwide for gastrointestinal disorders.

Smilax sp.

Various species in the Smilax genus are used world wide as medicines. Sarsparilla comes from one related species. 

Trachyspermum ammi - Ajwain seeds

Ajwain is a delicious spice that is called Caraway in the West. 

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Back at the UC Botanical Garden- 6 month retrospective

It's a wonderful feeling to be back at the UC Botanical Garden at Berkeley in a part time role as the Program Coordinator. I have the great privilege to put together workshops on a variety of topics ranging from orchid propagation and care to jam making, natural dyeing, compost building, tea tasting and so many more.

For those of you who have not visited, the Garden is situated on 34 acres in the beautiful Strawberry Canyon just above Berkeley. We are a non-profit institution and living museum housing over 12, 000 different kinds of plants that are distinctively grown from wild collected seed or plant material.

Everyday the Garden is changing and it is ever inspiring for me to head out there and experience it. Whether you are a gardener, photographer, textile designer, chef, teacher, child or just looking to relax and tour the Garden always has something beautiful to offer and teach. I highly recommend a membership so you can experience the Garden year round and come to our many many special events.

Here's a collection or plants, events and other photos I've been taking over the course of the past 6 months. Enjoy!

pipevine swallowtail caterpillar feeding on CA pipevine Aristolochia californica

this has been one of my favorite plants for years and is in the arid house

one of our many garden friends

our visitor service team enjoying a sunset wine tasting from the canary islands

teaching a chai workshop in the most ideal of all settings - the tropical house! 

design inspiration, love the structural eryngium with the lacy soft plant in the background

another all time favorite located just above the crops of the world garden

using my "iphoneography" skills from a workshop at the Garden on my precious puppies.

a gorgeous plant in our special plant sale silent auction

a lucky day: on an evening photo shoot with my all time favorite garden photographer marion brenner.

the gorgeous "fried egg" plant.

a blooming terrestrial orchid from Asia

one of the garden's residents

the celebrity Puya chilensis. spectacular.

my favorite rhodie

this little stunner from Southern Africa

my new office mates - silk worms!

to die for.

succulents all ready for our mother's day tea celebration and succulent crafting

the bouquets made at an incredible workshop with Svenja Brotz of Chestnut & Vine

Our Tokyo Cherry Tree dedication ceremony. Horticulturist Elaine Sedlack wrote haiku on the paper blossoms that each guest read to welcome this tree into the collection.

a gorgeous dye find - the wild mediterranean olive!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

web site (soft launch!)

Hi Friends!

Don't know who is reading out there, but I wanted to announce my website:

It's still a bit in progress. It was created lovingly in our home office: designed and authored and photographed by me and built by my wonderful G, but it's live and tells you a bit more about what I do. The aim for plantspeople is to educate the public on the many wonderful uses of plants. This is manifested through workshops (permaculture, natural dye, ethnobotany, cooking, etc..), through gardening focusing on dye, edible, medicinal and native plants, and through integrative design applied to textiles, flora, art, tamilian culture and more! It's all new and growing and very exciting.

Please don't hesitate to get in touch with any dye, plant, garden or culinary questions! Or about anything else. Thank you all for staying in touch and I hope you'll continue reading!

Gratefully yours,
Deepa Preeti Natarajan

Thursday, November 8, 2012


it's so wonderful when you come across a vegetable you have never seen or eaten before growing superbly in your local environment. this unusual vegetable is Cyclanthera pedata known as Caigua and pronounced kai-wa. it is largely grown in south america where it's been depicted for thousands of years in peruvian ceramics. in the  Andes it is called "pepino de rellenar" translated to a stuffing cucumber.

the fruits are often eaten cooked or picked, but can be eaten raw.

this plant is also found in the himalayas and is called kichipoktho in Bhutan.

we're growing this plant at the Merritt College permaculture garden and the vine is just absolutely thriving. hopefully we will save some seed this winter and begin propagation to distribute the plant in more bay area gardens.  please leave a comment or get in touch if you have any information on this one!

here's my experiment having it for lunch!

first i sliced open the pods and removed the lovely black seeds with a spoon

then i stuffed them with some rice we had leftover from yesterday (brown rice with onions, peppers, carrots)

then i steamed the stuffed cucumbers (took about 10minutes to get them soft)  and ate - yumm!!!