Archive for July, 2016

I made blue things!

Okay, I dyed a bit of wool in the leftovers from one of my woad preservation experiments, but it’s a start.

My first experiment was actually the third time with using the instructions at this site: http://www.woad.org.uk/html/extraction.html. The first time, it worked quite well but my son threw out the resulting woad in a fit of kitchen tidying. The second time, didn’t follow the instructions and ended up with a bit of chlorophyll at the bottom of a jar. This time, I managed to do almost everything according to the instructions. I should have waited a bit longer before cutting the leaves, and forgot to cover them in plastic overnight, and I didn’t consolidate the liquid after the first draining, but none of those errors appear to have been fatal. You can’t really tell in the picture below, but the jar has some solids settling to the bottom.

I used the leftover liquid to dye some wool. I didn’t have any Spectralite or sodium dithionite. Looking elsewhere, that didn’t appear to be a critical lack. As I had added soda ash to process the woad I assumed it was still in the liquid and didn’t add more. That may have been a mistake. I’ll try again with soda ash to see if I can get a bit more colour out of the exhaust bath. Woad.org says that there isn’t much woad in the leftover liquid, so I’m pleased with the little bit of colour I did achieve.

Finally, I made a woad ball. using these instructions: http://www.woad.org.uk/html/woad_balls.html. I followed all the instructions except for the one about wearing gloves (I could only find one, and a finger ripped off as I was putting it on the first time, so this instruction was only partly followed). Also, though it wasn’t written down, there should have been an instruction about wearing a big apron or old clothes that you don’t mind getting permanently splotched with woad juice.  I will get to use the woad ball later this summer, when my friend Eluned lets me play with her urine fermentation vat.



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There aren’t a lot of specific recipes for salads, but they are mentioned everywhere. I suspect medieval people would have been quite bemused by our moderns recipe books full of detailed recipes for salads. As I have taken to eating more from my own garden, I am learning to appreciate how salads may have tasted in the past.

Weeds like sheep sorrel are really tasty (sorry neighbours – I just can’t bring myself to pull them out because they are decorative too). They have a lemony bite which I loved, even as a kid. Fat hen and purslane also get added, since I’m pulling them from the garden anyway. I still haven’t tried dandelion greens, since I have a hangover fear of bitterness from reading many years ago that only the tiniest leaves are good to eat (and I never notice my dandelions until the plants are fairly large).

This year’s unexpected success with beets has me throwing beet greens into my salad as well. Arugula, older lettuce types (like Romaine, which looks similar to Cos lettuce and those found in manuscripts), cucumbers, and whatever herbs are handy – even garlic scapes – all get tossed in too. When I have fresh strawberries, they are delicious in green salad. Now that raspberries in season, I may try adding them, assuming I can get some from the bushes into my house without eating them first.

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I am still having fun with the course, though my biggest challenge is the temptation to cook all the things. Since I’m the only one who eats it, I end up with a lot of food! Last week was Elizabethan, so I made Capon with Oranges and Pea Tort. I also made thyme cordial, which was basically a lovely thyme tea with honey and lemon.

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