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!!! 

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

tilden botanic garden

The Bay Area never ceases to amaze me with its rich beauty, culture and community. Having moved here to be a part of a botanical garden and steeping myself into the plant world for the past 7 years I just simply cannot understand why my first visit to the Tilden Botanic Garden was only last month!

The garden is laid out with respect to California's diverse floristic province.

The garden is free and open to the public 7 days a week! Every plant is labelled which provides great opportunity to learn some ID.

Pack a lunch, bring a book or sketch pad and spend a few hours in this garden. You will truly feel transported to another world and ever inspired by the beauty of our CA native plants.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

backyard dyes

two heads of purple cabbage used in the dye pot

i've been dyeing for a while now, but i have had little or no garden space in the places i've lived so i have met neighbors to harvest dye plants, collected material from community and public gardens that i've worked in and done the occasional foraging from trees and shrubs in my local environment. 

dyer's coreopsis on left,  zinnia elegans on right
this summer i had my first taste of garden to garment using all dyes i had grown in my backyard. this experience was more than divine and gave me a deep appreciation for the slow process of creating regenerative textiles. 

mint leaves, an abundant local source of yellow and green dyes. and an absolutely essential kitchen herb!
now that the plantspeople garden is in progress i look forward to growing many dyes to use and share. stay tuned!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

glimpses from the train

This summer G and I took the California Zephyr to from Emeryville to Chicago and back. It was a memorable experience that I recommend to all. 

We took in the sights from the Observation car. 

Saw old engines in deserted places. 

Loved the scenery.

Took in the pace of the slow moving clouds

Playing cards with new friends. 

The orchards of Colorado. 

Crossing the lily-blooming Mississippi river.

And pulling into the big city - Chicago. 

Thursday, August 9, 2012

get together with friends, dyes & food

an assortment of rainbow carrots delicious to eat and the tops can be used to make brilliant golds in the dye pot

fig leaves can make beautiful olives in the dye pot, we ate these delectable figs sliced on sheep's ricotta and baguette 

Nothing much matches the sunny yellow and abundance of fennel flowers in summertime

waiting to fill our little cups with blackberry lemon bourbon mint fizzes 


a carpenter friend tests blackberry as a stain for a woodshop project

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

This Week's To-do list: Bay Area for dye/textile/plant people!

Here's the first of what I think will become a series of "To-do" list posts. I'm getting ready to head out on an epic train journey across the country with G from Emeryville to Chicago on the California Zephyr. Stay tuned for  train posts!  I'm looking forward to the slow pace, the beautiful scenery and the people.

But - I must say that I am missing some wonderful events while I'm gone. For those of you who are in town, check these out!!

Friday July 20 - 

Saturday July 21 -
Join in on this great event that will gather stories and photos of you and your clothes. What makes them  special, useful, easy to weare & care for. Kate Fletcher the mastermind behind this project is an innovator and consultant for sustainable fashion in the UK-  it's a special treat to have her in the Bay Area.

Sunday July 22 - 
Last weekend was the launch of the Natural Discourse installation at the Garden and it was amazing. There are many different artists from various disciplines who have put together exhibits throughout the garden. Don't miss the  Mary Ann Friel's Water Pavilion.  As a companian to Jane Flint's Publishing Outside the Book series of poem's I wrote an interpretive walk of papermaking plants found in the Garden. You can view the guide here and take it with you.  While you're there take a peak at the Plants for Dyes bed in the Herb Garden.

Inside one of the installations SOL HOUSE

Tuesday July 24 - Friday July 27 
This is a MUST for the natural dyer who would like to learn how to turn your beautiful dyes into mediums for silk screening. Helena is an amazing artist and I got to accompany her on a foray to select some urban street side plants to use for dye in this workshop.

And finally

Sunday August 5 -
I'll be teaching a 4 hour introductory workshop on natural dyes as a partnership with the institute of Urban Homesteading. Please come! 

Coreopsis tinctoria blooming in my garden

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Papermaking with Plants

Our tin can deckle boxes

Julia pouring the pulp through the filter

DIY papermaking! 

Finished products

My love of plants has led me on a beautiful journey to learn about medicine, color, cloth, and many other applications of plants. Recently papermaking has been coming up in all sorts of conversations and events. Paper, like cloth and color, is something most of us use every single day and take for granted. Just like the industrial textile industry, papermaking can be an extremely exploitative, chemical laden and environmentally damaging industry. I had the chance to take a two part workshop with paper-maker extraordinaire Julia Goodman.  If you haven't seen Julia's unbelievably beautiful beet papyrus check it out - she just had a great show at 18 reasons. We watched a Japanese documentary on traditional papermaking. They say "if you're angry, the paper will not turn out" and "you must be peaceful and happy for the paper to come out beautiful." I really kept that sentiment with me. Papermaking can be a very easy and rewarding process. And you can make a simple filter (Deckle box) out of tin cans and window screens.  We used abaca (Musa textilis)  and cotton (Gossypium) pulp that came from Magnolia Editions. You can imbed beautiful dried flowers, photos, yarns, or anything else into the paper - let the experimentation begin! 

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Colors of Nature

I'm only sharing this one pic today, but I really think it captures alot. I've been working with this simple Shibori pattern and after the eclipse I realize why this simple beautiful resist is so evocative - it looks just like the partial solar eclipse!

This is a photo from a Natural Dye workshop held at the UC Botanical Garden in Berkeley, one of my most favorite places. The silk scarf is dyed with eucalyptus leaves with a post-dip in an iron bath. The bright orange red is from madder root. Enjoy! 

Sunday, April 22, 2012

oak gall dye

Last week we gathered some friends and dyed some fabric with these gorgeous oak galls that a friend harvested up in Ukiah. Oak galls are growths on oak trees created by interaction of the plant hormones with the chemicals the wasp deposits. The wasps lay their eggs in the newly formed leaf buds and the gall results. The gall is a  contained space for the wasp's larvae to hatch and a food source for the larvae. The dye has been historically used across Europe and the Americas to create ink and brown, grey, and black dyes. Because the galls have alot of tannic acid they were used for tanning animal leathers. We dyed some cotton sheets and some silk scarves over a wood burning stove.