Dyeing experiment: Chicory ‘Red Dandelion’ root

I have seen quite a few claims that it is possible to get red dye from dandelion root in print.  But not usually with any detailed instructions.  In Craft of the Dyer Karen Casselman said she had tried numerous times without success to get red from dandelion root.  She invited readers to write in if they knew how it could be done. I don’t know how it can be done.  But when I started growing Chicory ‘Red Dandelion’ the stems and leaf ribs were such a vibrant deep red I promised myself I would try it out just in case.

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Many a happy dinner has come from this plant! When I harvested the root the plants were huge, and full of blue flowers, and falling all over other vegetables, at more promising stages in their life cycles.  Out came the chicory, destined to become chicken happiness.  Here are the roots, just as unpromising looking as dandelion roots (in the matter of red dye at any rate).

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Chopped and soaking:

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After an hour of cooking:

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Those roots had not released any colour at all.  So–one more dead end in the mystery of red dye from dandelion roots… There is a dyer on Ravelry who says she has achieved red from a specific dandelion by a cold ammonia process… but her description is not like any dandelion I have seen here so far…

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4 Comments

Filed under Dye Plants, Natural dyeing

4 responses to “Dyeing experiment: Chicory ‘Red Dandelion’ root

  1. Deb

    I did some reading back in the summer on the whole dandelion dyeing idea as I had an unending supply of them (AKA “weed patch” LOL!). It seemed that most had heard about the red but not achieved the color in the dyeing. One person had a theory that perhaps those that were getting red were growing them in an area with different nutrients in the soil and it was the soil, not the plant, that influenced the dye color. I remember them mentioning the geographic location but the place escapes me at the moment. Just thought I would mention it.

    • It does seem to be a persistent rumour even if I have only seen one person claim to have actually achieved red! I also have the regular dandelion but haven’t tried dyeing with it. I prefer to use it in weed pie :)

  2. firstly i find we fall in to a lot of confusion using common names [although they CAN be interesting sources of info about use etc]. so specifying the plant exactly might help. i would call a dandelion ‘Taraxacum officinale’ and it looks rather different from your pix. however i wonder if achieving red might need an alkali? so many yellow dyes [coreopsis, morinda etc] will turn red or pink when an alkali is added…good luck.

    • You are completely correct that the claim often made is that Taraxacum officinale will dye red. And also correct that the plant in my picture isn’t taraxacum officinale, though they are also growing at our place and making their way into dinner. I decided to try out the chicory because of its common name… Just in case the common name turned out to be a clue. Alkalinity probably is a great clue… Though if Casselman can’t do this I doubt I will be able to! I’m still building up my courage for experiments in ph that go beyond vinegar, but clearly I should!

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