Monday, September 17, 2012

elderberries to dye for

we are  renting a place and this is our first year here.   there are several trees and lots of room to plant.   fortunately, the owner lives next door and is very helpful with what things are and how to use them.   my german is still pretty lousy so i have to ask several times and sometimes just have to resort to asking through my son or husband.   getting there though.

recently, i've had my eyes on some berries ripening on some large bush/small trees.   at first i understood that they were not edible so i was wondering what color they might dye some things.   might as well use what you can.   right?

then the neighbor told me that they are indeed edible.   even better than dye!   whoo-hoo!   he calls them hollander but after talking to my grandmother, i figured out that it was elderberries.   nice!   elderberry jelly!

i had the kids pick them and gather the giant pot full of everything they could reach.   we got them inside and i was trying to explain that we needed to wash and separate the berries from the stems etc.   the kids weren't really listening and then the munchkin started getting rowdy, past dinner time, need to get everyone going . . .ya know.   stuff erupted.  before i knew it, the berries, stems and all were on the stove, too full of water.   i figured i would take care of it in a minute but i was just happy to get everyone calmed down, settled in, and in bed later.   so it got left.

the next day i figured i'd take the berries off and cook off the extra water for jelly.   i tasted it . . . not good.   not a lot of flavor but kind of a strange after taste.   hmmm. . . the hard water? . . crap. . . it's the stems.   ok, time to call in my secret weapon.   GRANDMA!   we discussed it and she thought i should be better safe than sorry because of the strange things that plants do.   rhubarb is great, unless you eat the leaves.   tomatoes the same.   dang!   i didn't want to loose the jelly but. . . i thought dye first anyway and now i just had to get a ladder out there for the kids to get the rest of the berries for jelly.

we had squeezed some of the berries already so i knew the dye was looking red-purple on the cloth and our hands.   well, it was at first anyway.   the tomboy princess wnated to make cookies so after she washed her hands we set to that.   her hands were turning dark purple to gray but my towwering teen and i still had the red purple.   weird.   then later, i washed my teen's hair with some baking soda.   (we are battling teen hormone greasy hair, but that's another story.)   anyway, the baking soda turned my hands green!   sweet!   this could be fun!   my teen later "helped" with cookies and his hands turned the dark color like my daughter's only where he licked his fingers.   we are going to have to experiment more with this stuff!

i learned that you need to soak whatever you want to dye in alum water first.   it was interesting tracking down alum here.   in germany, you can only get alum at the pharmacy.   it's about the same price i think though.   good grief.   the stuff we did turned out ok with the alum water afterwards.    it turned out the gray purple color.   not ugly.   i put some baking soda on some of it and it turned it greenish so part of the cloth i did looks like a bruise, which is kind of cool.  

ah, the weird stuff you get when you stumble through life experimenting!