We are so excited to be carrying Murasaki seeds (Lithospermum erythrorhizon) from Grand Prismatic Seed!
Grand Prismatic says:
Murasaki (also known as purple gromwell, redroot gromwell, and zi cao), contains the dye compound shikonin, which is the enantiomer (chemical mirror image) of the more widely used dye compound alkannin that is found in dyer’s alkanet. Beyond being a powerful dye, shikonin has a long history of use in traditional Chinese medicine, and is currently being studied for its ability to enhance the efficacy of some cancer treatments, and for its antiviral attributes.
More Tips from Grand Prismatic:
As with madder root, you should wait until the end of the second or third year to harvest your roots to maximize the amount of pigment you can extract. We wanted to get a sneak peak of Murasaki’s color, so we dug up a first year plant and dyed some cotton fabric mordanted with aluminum acetate (seen in the photo to the left). We love the color we received, and are excited to see how much more pigment becomes available when we dig up more next year!
To dye with Murasaki, you knead the fresh or dried roots in water for an extended amount of time (we did 30 minutes, but have heard of people doing it for hours), and then dip your mordanted natural fibers into the room temperature dye bath until you achieve your desired color, or have exhausted the dye bath. There are quicker ways to extract dye that involve soaking the roots in alcohol. We are excited to try this method and others as our plants age.
Murasaki seeds take 3-4 weeks to germinate. We start ours indoors and just slightly cover the seeds with soil. Keep flats evenly moist until germination occurs, and plant outdoors after danger of frost. You can also direct sow the seeds in mid-spring, but we recommend transplanting murasaki.
Packet: 50 seeds
ABOUT THE FARMERS:
James Young and Guy Banner are the co-owners and farmers of Grand Prismatic Seed. They made a commitment to grow high quality open pollinated seeds. Their seeds can withstand the stresses associated with high desert crop production. Over time, they expect to release new vegetable varieties adapted to the Intermountain West. James has a passion for growing natural dye plants/seeds. He learned his seedy ways from Wild Garden Seed in Philomath, Oregon. Guy has an affinity for medicinal herbs and plants native to the Great Basin, Intermountain West, and Colorado Plateau. He has an extensive background. For instance, it includes ethnobotany and habitat restoration, agroecology, native seed production, and ornamental gardening.
Image courtesy https://www.grandprismaticseed.com/