Madder Red – Book Review from a grower’s point of view

7 Sep

John Marshall, a fabulous art teacher, introduced me to the book, Madder Red: A History of Luxury and Trade by Robert Chencier

I can’t afford a printed copy but I did find a digital copy. I do grow madder root here in the Hill Country. Possibly I am late to the party for this book but I am having great fun reading about madder cultivation in Russia, Eastern Europe, France & the lowlands and the economic turmoil surrounding it in the 1600, 1700 & 1800 leading up to the aniline dye market trump. I find it fascinating that it was grown in the local vineyards. Hmmm, perhaps our wine vintners need another long term cash crop.

It is still early in my reading so I haven’t hit the recipe section yet. If you grow madder see if you can find it via library loan. It is a decent read. I’ll report back if I glean any decent madder recipes but I am getting a great old world ag education in madder root cultivation and economics.

Two of my madder beds have hit 4 and 5 years old and I’ll be digging them up this fall. Can’t wait to see if I get the richer purple reds on silk from my older roots compared to the one year old red orange I got from an earlier harvest.



Interested in helping me dig? Let me know. I can trade madder seeds, lichen or madder shoots for labor. I’ll probably harvest in late October here in the Texas Hill Country.

I have lots of lichen, persimmon and weld dyeing to report on but have been sidetracked by hot temps, family matters & travel. And this book!

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