Tag Archives: indigo suffruticosa

Water Settle Versus Lime Flocculate, Lime for the WIN

6 Aug

Back on July 17th I put a pound of Indigofera Suffruticosa leaves to soak. In the Texas heat it was ready to pull the leaves and move on to pull the pigment. I had time so I had used my well water (about 8-9ph) to soak the leaves and separate the pigment. And I waited for the pigment to settle.

Ready to give up the pigment!

And I waited. Little drained thru my Duda 25 micron filter, pigment was evident but the water was a beautiful blue and looked happy to wait for evaporation to happen.

Waiting for water extraction

Come August 3rd I was done waiting, I poured off the liquid into a holding bucket and stopped when pigment paste was evident in the pour. This went into my coffee filter system. It is not beautiful or useful for large quantities but works if you parse out your work.

Paste from 1# of Indigofera Suffruticosa leaves by water extraction only

This paste is still wet and has a bit more drying to go before I measure.

Water extraction IS paste

But I still had half a bucket of dark blue water mocking me. So, I added 3 TBSP of calcium hydroxide and let fly with my paint mixer to aerate. The pigment/lime dropped like a rock and I could easily see the pigment ready to filter.

Pigment lurking in the bottom of the bucket

I poured the liquid off and captured the paste in my Duda filter again. I did have to clean my filters from the long wait for water pigment drop. The bottom side of the filter had molded from the heat and moisture. Ugly stuff. One day later my filtered paste volume had reduced enough for me to start my vinegar wash.

Capturing the paste for washing

Now, I am washing this paste because I want to see what my one pound of leaves yielded. Remember, I captured some of it with just a water drop but pigment remained to capture in order to get a full measurement.

I wash with 9% vinegar to dissolve the calcium carbonate that is formed during the aeration process. Others use a stronger chemical to wash but I will leave that process to them to explain. I am on a well and septic system so I prefer to keep my chemicals fairly intrusive.


CaCO3 + 2CH3COOH = Ca(CH3COO)2 + H2O + CO2. Limestone (CaCO3) combined with vinegar (2CH3COOH ) yields calcium acetate Ca(CH3COO)2, water (H20) and carbon dioxide (CO2).

One must always remember to leave room in your container when adding your acid to your brew. Remember the volcano science experiments as a child? Yea, you are gonna make foam. I always secure my jar in a laundry tub so if nature gets too explosive I can recommend my pigment.

So, I add more water to my paste, add vinegar and mix and watch the foam rise.

So now I have started the wash to remove the calcium carbonate. The water & dissolved goods will float above the paste & I will pour that off. I might repeat 3 times to get a good wash and then cycle thru my coffee filter setup again for the final paste.

Waiting for the dissolving to separate

At this point I’ll be able to compare the two pastes to see the color. More on that later. In the meantime I have 3# of processed leaf water that also never really dropped that I am going to lime tomorrow. And I need to harvest my Japanese Indigo for pigment extraction as well. The water extract was an adventure but did not work well under my working conditions. This is the year for extraction opposed to drying leaves. Definitely more work for extraction.

IS & JI planted, add water & wait for heat

5 Jun

This week we hit 100+. I’ve finished as much planting as I can in Fort Indigo. The fences have been newly painted and hopefully will withstand the armadillo and possum incursions for grubs. The indigo bed was enlarged at the expense of a madder bed. This year I am mixing Japanese Indigo and Indigofera Suffruticosa in the same bed. The IS will shade the JI and the two have played well together when I trim the IS limbs up. Plus I have the added bonus that the JI beta enzyme appears to work with the SI leaves when the two are crushed together. More on that later this season.

Smaller earlier planted IS compared to spoiled IS seedlings held in pots to grow.
Before the mulch the plants, both IS and JI, are placed by irrigation emitters to ensure water available in the hot season
Mulch in place, fence in place, now we wait for growth to kick in.
For comparison, two & three year IS bushes happily growing under the eaves facing East. Note the new seedlings for this year.

So, if all goes well I will continue to practice with my indigo extraction and blender vats this summer. And, even more importantly I will have an Indigofera Suffruticosa seed crop this fall.

Indigofera Suffruticosa Roots

18 May

I usually don’t pull up my precious Indigofera Suffruticosa until grudgingly certain the plant has given up the ghost. Last time I pulled up IS was about three years ago when I got hit by a hard freeze. I lost all of my plants and did have to pull everything up. I remember that was difficult but they’ve been in the ground for three or four years. So this past winter I did lose a two year old plant, but the same vintage plants around it survived. So, here is a replay of the pull..

Two year plant succumbed to winter 2019/20 freezes.

So, the plant broke at ground level, not surprising since I have been doing spring watering. Rot has set in with the irrigation moisture on deadwood. So here is our second try at pulling the root.

So, yes, after two years full growth, the roots are deep. I won’t take a shovel to it due to its proximity to other plants. That root will stay in place.

And for those who remember my sad plant ravaged by caterpillars, it lives. Transplanted to a pot and spoiled for a couple of weeks the leaves are making another appearance. This will go back into the ground soon. It still looks sad but with the increasing warm temps and a permanent home in the ground it will thrive.

Indigofera Suffruticosa Seeds

24 Oct

Seed crop is looking good. I will know more if I have enough to sell in Jan/Feb 2020.

This picture gives you an idea of one year old plants versus two year old plants. This year I will definitely keep them safe from killing frosts. Leave room to grow. I have digging armadillos hence the Fort Indigo.

Blender Blends!

10 Nov

And here are the results of the blender comparison.  My interest was in pushing the use of the beta-glucosidase found in the Japanese Indigo species to affect other varieties of indigo, in this case, Indigofera Suffruticosa.  A paper titled

rβ-Glucosidase in the Indigo Plant: Intracellular Localization and Tissue Specific Expression in Leaves

compiled by a team of Japanese scholars goes thru some of the details of cell structure.  This paper is located on https://academic.oup.com.  I am not a scientist but am using the culture of grandmothers’ knowledge to try this.  One day I will hook up with a scientist to understand WHY this works.

Let’s play “What was in the fresh leaf blender?” Please note these skeins have not been washed! More to come after washing to see what really sticks.  ANSWERS BELOW!

1. Which skein is blender indigofera suffruticosa?

2. Which skein is blender Japanese Indigo?

3. Which skein is a “blend” of both Japanese Indigo and Indigofera Suffruticosa?

4. Which is the leftover skein for all season?

Please note the @botanicalcolors hoops in use!

Note how the Indigofera Suffruticosa mixed with the Japanese Indigo presents a stronger blue rather than the traditional green of Blender Japanese Indigo

10 day difference for Japanese Indigo seedlings

30 Mar

10 days & temperature increases and sunshine made a big difference. March 17th I planted my Japanese Indigo seeds, by the 27th I had sprouts! I ordered the wrong seed tray. Duh, but seeds planted in new tray sprouted sooner than my old method. I am smarter now despite myself. Next up I will plant my Indigofera Suffruticosa seeds. I’ll throw Cota and Hopi Sunflowers into the mix this year also. Maybe I can beat the birds to the seeds for dye this year.

I am still on bud watch on my older Suffruticosa plants. Will the 3 year old plants live longer? Did the freeze this January take the younger plants out? The drama of gardening continues.

Plus the Texas Persimmon is budding and blooming. Before I know it I will be out picking persimmons in July for the dye.

SOLD OUT FOR 208 Indigofera Suffruticosa Seeds for sale

2 Mar

Ok folks, here you go….Indigofera Suffruticosa seeds for sale in my Etsy Shop, ColorsOfMy Valley, which is located here.  SOLD OUT FOR 2018!

Offered just in time to start your seed trays.  THIS IS NOT JAPANESE INDIGO!

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 It is Indigofera Suffruticosa or Anil De Pasto from the warmer climates.  You can give a try growing it in colder climates.  With protection it might be a perennial but I think it will turn annual on you with hard freezes and snows.  Not a hardship, if you can get it to seed stage you can replant for the next season.

It starts out small in the seed trays, without trimming the shrub can get to 7+ feet.

I place about 4-8 seeds in each tray to start my seedlings.  Here in the Texas Hill Country my biggest enemy behind drought is the crickets.  I hold my seedlings in a protected area from frost and crickets and plant out when it is safe.  They are mulched well.   Tiny crickets can take your seedlings out early in the season, larger grasshoppers come for your leaves in the fall, be aware!  Also give the shrubs room to spread.  You can see from the photo above that untrimmed the suffruticosa will go for the sky.  The hummingbirds love to hang out in the branches and visit the flowers.

When they are happy, they grow, produce indigo leaves, flowers and finally seeds.  The curved pods resemble banana bunches.  My shrubs have usually lasted 3 years. Very hard freezes can take them out. The prior season shrubs put out new branches fairly early.  I pull the dead shrubs and put in the new seedlings in to fill the space.

These shrubs fill in nicely, can take east and west exposures with irrigation.  I am testing them this year to see if the deer will much on them.   My crops are grown in a protected area the deer cannot access.   The flowers are lovely and the birds love the branches thru the winter to perch on.  The hummingbirds use them for launching sites in the early spring.  They are pleasant plants to have in the garden, they add height and take trimming in stride.  But of course, it is all about the leaves!  I trim my shrubs to shape and strip the leaves off of the smaller stems.  I weigh my stripped leaves at this point to keep track of the color intensity yielded.

If you use fresh leaf extraction you are limited by the leaves you’ve harvested.  I tend to do several harvests a year and dye skeins over the year.  Building the layers as the leaves grow.  Be patient.  Of course you can also extract the pigment and save it for one annual dye bath.  I simply prefer to continue to experiment with what each harvest gives me.

   This shirt and silk skeins are from one dip in the fresh leaf fructose vat.  One of the skeins has been dipped twice.

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I am also experimenting with drying this indigo species leaves to see how it work for indigo leaf storage and fructose pot production.  That will show up on my blog also when I have a few more results to add.

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Freeze dried Indigo Suffruticosa leaves waiting for experimentation. 

Indigofera Suffruticosa seeds for sale in my Etsy Shop, ColorsOfMy Valley, which is located here.  SOLD OUT FOR 2018! One packet should be plenty to get you started with questions and leaves for you to experiment with!

Sharing a Texas Winter Dye Garden

25 Feb

Today I hosted 3 UT Art Graduate students and showed them the winter dye garden. Even though all outside was frozen or dormant there was plenty of color in the studio to show them. It was a fun 3 hours of give and take and seeing the art world thru their eyes.

The indigo suffruticosa is cut back and dormant but the seed pods were beautiful.

The madder root bed was frozen back but we weeded and looked at the roots gleaming with color.

The Japanese Indigo beds lay fallow waiting for their early spring turning of the soil. Some frozen indigo leaves showed their true colors.

Final Harvest

11 Jan

Finally! All indigofera suffruticosa seed polls cracked, hulled & winnowed except for a couple of renegade pods. The winds were useful today. Next up winnowing Japanese Indigo seeds.

Moonlight Harvest

31 Dec

The big freeze comes tomorrow to the Texas Hill Country. I am finishing my indigofera suffrucitosa seed harvest by moonlight.

Those of you familiar with my back surgery recovery should know this is a good thing, requiring bending and limited twisting. Yahoo!

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