A small leafed shrub of the legume family, it grows wild in the sandy soil of Daufuskie. Petite, sweet pink flowers appear in the early summer. There are many varieties of indigo throughout the world, but only 20 - 30 with sufficient indican to create dye.
Different cultures process the plant with their own techniques, processes and rituals. We ferment the leaves, as did the southern indigo plantations.
After sitting in plain tap or rainwater for several day, the surface of the water changes remarkably to a neon green and metallic colored blue bubbles appear.
The magic of seeing green leaves yield their blue 'dye stuff' or indican through fermentation.
The plant material is removed. Southern plantations used this leaf matter as fertilizer.
The water is beat vigorously and calcium hydroxide (pickling lime) is added .... like magic beautiful blue bubbles and foam appear! It is no wonder ancient cultures believed there were mystical powers in indigo!
After the foamy water settles for several days, the indigo sediment, a mud like substance has settled to the bottom.
The indigo is sun dried. However, in this form - mixed with water.... it will not dye. It is not soluble. Other ingredients must be added to create a dye vat.
Southern plantations exported the indigo in the form of indigo 'cakes' or 'bricks'. At the height of the indigo plantation - a million pounds of indigo were exported from South Carolina annually.