Little clusters of juicy black fruits have popped up in all the hedgerows – yes! It is blackberry season! There are scrummy fruits to be foraged all around. This week we decided to do something a little alternative with our haul. We used the natural dyes in the blackberries to make purple and fragrant playdough.
You will need:-
- A few handfuls of juicy blackberries (enough to make about 1 ½ cups of deep purple juice when mixed with water)
- An old muslin / pair of tights
- 400g of plain flour
- 1.5 tbsps cream of tartar
- 100g cup of salt
- 1.5 tbsp vegetable or sunflower oil
- A few drops of glycerine if you have it
First you’ll need to go a-blackberry gathering! It’s so rewarding to be able to show your Little Explorers where and how things grow wild (and perfectly imperfect) in the countryside. Make sure you point out which fruits are safe to eat. And watch out for the stinging nettles which seem to cluster around blackberry bushes. We think they’re trying to make us work for the treat! It was interesting to see that the blackberry bushes only popped up in sunny spots.
First you’ll need to extract the juice from your blackberries. Our preferred method is to cut the leg off an old pair of tights. Tip all the fruits into the foot and get squishing and squeezing until the juice bleeds out. It’s amazing how much juice you can extract! You can then hang the tights over the bowl so the last drops eek their way out on their own. You could also use a muslin cloth to act as the strainer.
Then, mix all the dry goods in your largest bowl and ask your Little Explorers to stir and mush in the oil.
Boil up the juice and water mix, and carefully add this hot nectar little by little until your dough turns a vibrant shade of purple. Adding a few drops of glycerine at this point will make your playdough more shiny, but it’s entirely optional.
Once this mix has cooled down, knead it energetically until it doesn’t feel sticky any more. This will take a few minutes. Don’t give up until it’s perfect.
This is a fun way to find out about natural dyes. In the old days, people used blackberry juices to dye their hair. You can tell your Little Explorers how yellow dye used to come from turmeric spices; red colouring was created from ground up insects called cochineals and indigo was from a flowering plant called woad.
Expert Explorers: Did you know that Batology is the study of blackberries – not bats! If you’re in need of a fun fact, chipterology is the study of bats! Also - unripe blackberries aren’t green like many fruits, they are actually red. In the old days, people with boils or pimples would walk under an archway of blackberries to cure them. In the Civil War, people believed that blackberries were a cure for dysentery, and they even called truces to allow soldiers to pick them.