Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Goldenrod (Solidago)

Late summer is the time for Goldenrod to come into bloom, and it may continue blooming until the first  frost of autumn.  This perennial of the family Asteraceae can be found all over North America growing along roadsides, in ditches and in fields.  It is the state flower for both Kentucky and Nebraska, although whether it is a actually a flower or a weed is in dispute.  Goldenrod will attempt to dominate and eventually take over the garden, if planted there.

More than 100 distinct species of Goldenrod have been identified, and distinguishing between them can be a challenge.  The plants that I harvested were found growing along the edges of a logging road.  They stood about 3 feet high, with tall, slender, rod-like stems which branched out near the top, each branch lined with small pod-like, golden-yellow flowers.

I snipped the tops of the plants just below where they began to branch out, and put the flowers in the dye pot.  The remaining stems with leaves, I set aside to make green tea later.  There is more about that at the end of this post.

Goldenrod September 2012

The dye pot was filled with water and brought to a simmer.  After 1-2 hours simmering, I turned the heat off and let the pot sit overnight.  The next day, I strained the plants from the golden-colored liquid.  Into this, I immersed three 2-ounce skeins of pre-mordanted yarn, along with a mordant sample card, and let them simmer for about 1 hour.

Goldenrod Mordant Sample Card

Left: alum; Center: iron; Right: copper
These results surprised me.  The alum-mordanted yarn was more golden, while the copper-mordanted yarn was more yellow.  I expected just the opposite from those two mordants.  This is one of the things I find most fascinating about natural dyeing.  When trying something for the first time, whether a plant, lichen, mushroom, or mordant there are always surprises.

Making Sweet Goldenrod Tea

Goldenrod leaves make a delicious anise-flavored green tea.  After snipping the flowered tops to use for dyeing, I spread all the stems with their leaves on a screen, washed them using my garden hose on the shower setting, and left them to dry in the sun for a few days.

Goldenrod leaves washed and drying in the sun

When dry,  I stripped the leaves from the stems, filling a large bowl to over-flowing.

Dried Goldenrod leaves

Next, I spread the leaves on two cookie sheets and put them in my oven for about 1 hour on the lowest possible temperature, 170 degrees, leaving the oven door ajar.  This was to make sure that no moisture remained in the leaves to mold them.  I also put a glass jar for storing the tea into the oven to remove any moisture in the jar as well.  Then I crunched up the leaves and put them in the jar.  Be careful not to crunch the leaves too much as when dry, they disintegrate easily and the particles may become so small they slip right through a tea sieve.  Next time I prepare these leaves, I plan to leave them whole or break them into much larger particles than pictured here in the jar.

Goldenrod Tea Leaves

To enjoy this tea, you may use fresh leaves or dried.  Experiment with the amount of leaves to use to get the desired strength of tea.  I prefer a stronger tea and use a little more leaves than the recipe below calls for.  When using fresh leaves, I put a handful of whole leaves in my teapot and pour on the boiling water, letting it steep for a longer period of time. Of all the green teas I have ever tasted, this is my absolute favorite!

Sweet Goldenrod Tea

2 tsps. leaves
8 ounces water

Pour boiling water over the leaves and let steep for 10 minutes.
Add a touch of honey to taste.  

Sweet Goldenrod Tea with Honey




  1. This is a very interesting post. I've dyed with goldenrod last year but never tried the tea. I'm due for a walk along the trails this weekend to get my goldenrod harvest.

  2. Zenitude, I hope you enjoy the tea as much as I do. Checking out your blog, I adored the post of your little grandaughter "spinning" on her rocking horse. The pictures of your golden retriever puppies really tugged at my heart strings. We have had two golden retrievers over the years. They were the dearest of friends with the sweetest natures. We are thinking we are almost ready to get another.

  3. Pallas, I am nominating you for an Illuminating Blogger award because I enjoy reading your blog. I am grateful for the generous way you share your dyeing processes, thinking about plants and experience as a dyer.

    I understand that the idea of an award mightn't be your cup of tea. If it is, follow the link below and check it out. If not, I'll continue to enjoy your blog and your dyeing!

  4. Thank you for your kind words and nomination. I had not heard of the "Illuminating Blogger" award, but will check it out. There are so many thoughtful and interesting blogs on dyeing available, yours included. Actually, I don't really think of myself as a blogger, per se. It is just that I have found the blog a good place to keep record of my dyeing experience to refer to a notebook.

  5. I just discovered your blog through Ravelry, and am so impressed at your dyes! I have played with natural dyes on my own handspun yarns, and have had some fun results. I especially had fun when I discovered that the yellow flower my mom had in her front yard is likely dyer's coreopsis! It gave me beautiful oranges and pinks. Thank you for posting such detailed entries on natural dyes!

  6. Thanks, Nicole. How exciting to find coreopsis growing right in your mother's front yard! My first dyeing experience was back in the early 1980's on some of my handspun yarns, too. I gathered up some lichen that had blown off the trees in a wind storm, and was rewarded with a rich brown color. I was hooked! There is so much in nature for us to experiment with. Enjoy!