I recently read something about pomegranates and their incredible antiviral and antibacterial properties (it’s a great fruit to eat in these times). It gave me the motivation to finally write something about one of my favourite dye plants, and muse on the links between its potency as a dye plant and a source of so many health benefits.
Pomegranates are native to modern day Iran and Iraq and have been used as a folk medicine for thousands of years. From the juicy seeds that are so tightly packed inside, to the pithy strong skin that surrounds them, each part has a use.
Pomegranate juice lowers blood pressure and therefore also lowers the risk of heart disease and strokes. People often liken it to a heart in its brilliant red and the shape of its seeds. Among men it is also popular as a way of reducing levels of prostate-specific antigen - ultimately reducing the risk of prostate cancer. We haven’t finished there…as mentioned above, pomegranates are excellent at fighting infection with their antiviral properties. And to top that, even the skin contains antibiotic and cancer-fighting properties!!
Hemp jersey freshly dyed with pomegranate and rust (on left) and pomegranate, turmeric and rust (on right)
And of course the part that I’ve been celebrating since I discovered it - pomegranate skins produce an incredibly strong and long-lasting dye.
I’ve spent many hours peeling, drying and storing the skins of this wonder fruit. I’ve even built a special pomegranate drying rack that’s permanently filled with beautiful looking pink and yellow pieces that I gather from friends, and friends of friends, around Norwich.
The skin on its own produces a bright sunny yellow, and when overdyed with turmeric and rust, a deep, forest green. And if you just add rust with the skins, a concentrated dye bath can turn the fabric almost black! Less concentrated and it’s a gorgeous gentle sage grey.
I’ve noticed in the years I’ve been absorbing myself in the world of natural dyeing, that plants that are especially potent medicinally are often also strong in their ability to give colour, or vice versa. Elder is another such example, both a recognised herbal remedy and a powerful dye plant. It’s a wonderful thing to discover, and somehow makes a lot of sense.
Nature is full of such wonders. If we can keep learning and engaging with our surroundings and understanding the amazing world of plants that we live in, I believe we also come to feeling a greater belonging, and it will inspire us to care, for everyone and everything on this Earth.