Pomegranate Dye // Canoe

Natalie Davis of Canoe preps the pomegranate
Natalie Davis of Canoe preps the pomegranate

Punica granatum or pomegranate is eaten for its tart and nutrient dense properties. It is native to Iran, cultivated all over the world and, because it is drought tolerant- grown in Texas as an ornamental shrub. I was surprised to learn that pomegranate inspired the naming of the grenade, from the spanish Granada.

Luckily, my neighbors grow 2 pomegranate shrubs that produce bitter fruit and they were happy to gift me inedible fruit for a dye bath. Remember, fruit is not the only indicator of dye color- leaves, branches and bark can also be rich sources of color.

Pomegranates are easy to harvest and fun to break apart (video below). They can be fresh or dried before extracting color. When I first dyed with pomegranate in Oaxaca, the fruit was dried. I soaked them in water for 2 days before adding heat. If you collect fresh pomegranate, I recommended soaking them for 24 hours but if you’re limited on time- soaking is not necessary.

Pomegranates soaking
Pomegranates soaking

Dyeing is a good solo activity but much more fun with friends. Natalie Davis is owner/designer of Canoe in Austin, Texas. She is a friend and talented leather worker and came over to test leather in a few dye baths. Watch her break up pomegranates for the dye bath. If you do this at home- wear protective eye wear and protect your work surface from hammering.

I mordanted fabric prior to dyeing and we spent the day testing materials and overdying with cochineal, pecan and indigo. Fabric was for 30 minutes to an hour and hung to dry in the hot Texas sun.

Pomegranate and iron dye bath, Oaxaca
Pomegranate and iron dye bath, Oaxaca

Larry Stein, Jim Kamas & Monte Nesbitt. Pomegranates. Texas AgriLife Extension, Texas A&M University, 2010. Web. 8 Feb. 2015. <http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/fruit-nut/files/2010/10/pomegranates.pdf&gt;

Bonny Wolf. Pomegranates: Jewels In The Fruit Crown. Kitchen Window series, NPR Books, 1 Nov. 2006. Web. 8 Feb. 2015. <http://www.npr.org/2011/07/15/6411097/pomegranates-jewels-in-the-fruit-crown&gt;

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Pomegranate Dye // Canoe

Sleep Steep Ravine

Steep Ravin cabins at sunrise
Steep Ravin cabins at sunrise

Steep Ravine is perched on the Pacific Ocean, north of San Francisco. Well preserved cabins with wood burning fireplaces dapple flowered inclines. Raucous waves crash below and coastal scrub forests maintain a protective perimeter.

My first visit to Steep Ravine took place in January for the Juniper Ridge Winter Redwood harvest. Each year the wildcrafting team returns here to set up base camp, hike out and collect test plants for a Field Lab perfume.

Indigo dyed cloth from home for shade
Indigo dyed cloth from home for shade

There is a wilderness hike and ecology lesson with Juniper Ridge founder, Hall.  Each hiker builds their own scent experiment using a small cotton sack and native plants on their trail. The scent notes build onto one another and each bag holds its own beauty.

Silk noil soaking in sage bath
Silk noil soaking in sage bath

I set up a dye station using Toyon and Coastal Sage I harvested that morning. Raw silk
bandanas that I sewed and mordanted in advance of the trip are the canvas. They accept color beautifully and are sturdier for camping accessories. While everyone was hiking, I dip dyed their bandanas in the sage bath gleaning a bright goldenrod and sent wafts of sweet mint over the camp. When they returned we applied shibori to our bandanas and dropped them into the Toyon bath.

There’s Colin holding up his work and the bandanas mid-soak in the sage bath.

Photo by Jourdan Vouga
Photo by Jourdan Vouga

After hiking, dyeing and distilling, we retired to the campfire and ate stew under a blanket of stars.

Visit Juniper Ridge for Harvest Stories and Wilderness Perfume. by clicking here.

Read Huckberry’s story about the trip here.


*Steep Ravine is one of the most sought after campgrounds in the bay area. Interested in booking a cabin? Make sure to log on 6 months ahead of time when the cabins are first posted for reservations.

Sleep Steep Ravine