Saturday, February 12, 2011

Moringa oleifera

ok folks, for those of you who have been reading (thank you!) i have discovered what i think is my new favorite plant. with many uses for timber, dye, medicine and probably the most nutritious food around the winner is.... Moringa oleifera, in Tamil "murungai maram" (murungai - kai for fruits, murungai - keerai for leaves). Moringa is grown all over the world in climates equivalent to USDA zones 9 and 10. it is not frost tolerant, but is very very drought tolerant.

i grew up eating this tree's tasty fruits - referred to as "drumsticks" as they look just as their name sake. my family would put them into sambar and i would be the first to go in and pick out all the drumsticks from the stew.

only recently did i learn of the wonderfood that is the leaves - today we harvested local leaves and i am de-stemming them in the photo above to make into a dish. the leaves are somewhat tangy. the leaves contain beta-carotene, vitamin c, protein, iron and potassium. they are said to be particularly beneficial for breast-feeding mothers and young children with one tablespoon of dried leaves providing 14 % of the protein, 40% of the calcium, 23% of the iron and nearly all of the vitamin A a child needs from age 1 -3!!!

i also learned through the video below that many are working to spread knowledge of this tree and its nutritional benefits to malnourished areas of the world.

as far as the trees dye properties i have yet to test, but supposedly in jamaica the sap yields a blue dye!

the flowers are also used in traditional medicines.

certainly a miracle tree in my book.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

onion skins

onion skins. they have got to be on the top dye list for me as they yield a glorious glowing gold AND most importantly, they are a perfect by-product dye. most of us use onions on a regular basis in the kitchen. what i do is keep a glass jar on top of the refrigerator and as time goes just add my skins to the jar, when its full its time to dye! one thing just to make sure is that you leave any of the fleshy bits out of your jar - they will decompose soon and add moisture and rot to your other skins!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Five-Leaved Chaste Tree : Vitex negundo or Nochhi

A new discovery, which yielded at beautiful green is the plant Vitex negundo (Tamil "Nochhi," English "Five Leaved Chaste Tree"). This plant is a member of one of my favorite plant families the Lamiaceae - a family that includes salvias and most of the fragrant culinary herbs - lavender, basil, mint, thyme, etc...

We prepared the dye bath by boiling up water and adding a nice big bunch of Nocchi leaves. We added our pre-mordanted raw silk and handloom cotton.

If you add soda ash to the dye bath - the color should be a more teal-turquoise ish blue green.