This blog post is about growing and harvesting woad at home. Woad also call as Isatis tinctoria or dyer’s woad is an all ancient dye plant for obtaining blue dyes. It was available in Europe and use a blue dye before indigo was imported as early as the 16th century. It began during neolithic times which is the 12th century. The blue dye obtain from woad is not as stable and reliable as indigo. However, it is much easier to grow them in temperate temperatures like the United Kingdom.
Growing and harvesting woad
Woad is a relatively easy plant to grow. It is from a mustard family. It isa biennial plant that forms leaves in its first year. Then flowers and goes to seed the next year. It’s the first-year during summertime its leaves that produce the blue dye. Although it is known to produce blue dye in the winter and second year. It does happen but rare.
To grow woad obtain some seeds. I got mine online on eBay. Do buy a few packets of seeds as germination can be unreliable. Sow the seeds in early spring or early fall. Spread them out when sowing as woad has a taproot. Therefore it does not like to be disturbed and best not to transplant too much. If it has to be transplanted do take care not to damage its taproot. Plant them apart about 30 cm apart. Grow woad in full sun and water regularly. Feed them with some manure compost and water regularly so it produces strong leaves.
Woad is ready to harvest for dyeing when it becomes establish and produces nice strong big leaves. Harvest them regularly so as to produce more leaves. It’s been in the books and web that to harvest the leaves in the morning, during July and August. Use the leaves as soon as it is harvested so that to obtain the bluest dye. It is also known some to leaves latter and still able to obtain blue dye out of it.
In its second year, once the plant starts to flower cut back the flowers and leave one or two flower stalks to seed. Once the seed mature cut them off and store seeds for sowing new plants. The seeds can be stored for several years before they lose viability. It is also possible to harvest the seeds for the dye pot by using mature seeds. This is done by cutting the stalks and removing seeds.
Thank you for reading and dropping by. Do have a look at my other blog post on preparing indigo for fabric dyeing.