Tuesday, September 13, 2016

How Not To Make Pokeweed Ink

Around here, pokeweed is everywhere. And this time of year some of the plants are beginning to produce tempting clusters of purple berries. There are two things you need to know about these berries: First, they're terrifically poisonous (to us) and second of all, they make great ink. Ever since I learned the latter, I wanted to give it a try.

Last night, while on a walk, I carefully snipped off a cluster of purple berries and carefully placed them into a Ziplock bag. This morning, I cautiously squished the bag and lo and behold, I had a bright liquid to work with:

Next up, I knew I needed to strain the mixture. My plan: grab a swatch of old old t-shirt and use it like a cheesecloth. Because I had comparatively little liquid to work with, I used an empty tea candle base as the ink well. I carefully cut the bag and poured the juice into the t-shirt covered ink well:

At first I thought it was working. How wrong I was. The juice did exactly what it was supposed to do when it hit the t-shirt fabric: it stained it. The result was a wonderfully colored swatch of t-shirt fabric and no ink in my inkwell. D'oh.

I was about to give up, when I noticed I had a few drops of liquid left in the bag. I squeezed those into my inkwell. For good measure I added a bit corn starch (as recommended here), and gave it all little mix with a toothpick.

Using a toothpick as a stylus, I went to work creating a masterpiece from my new ink:

I've got to say, the result was incredibly satisfying. I'd bumbled my way through the process and still managed to make ink! It's truly remarkable how potent those berries are - talk about a stainfest waiting to happen.

I'm definitely going to keep an eye out for more berries. And next time, I'll try using pantyhose instead of cotton fabric for the straining part. I'm sure Shira won't mind if I raid her supply.


  1. well if you want more pokeweed.... feel free to help yourself, we've got plenty in the backyard.

  2. You and the rest of Arlington. But thanks :-)