For three days I am immersed in natural dyes with Elsa Sanchez Diaz who teaches our Oaxaca Natural Dye Workshops through Oaxaca Cultural Navigator. We make 32 different colors starting with a base of gray and white natural wool.
The natural plant and vegetable materials we dye with include palo de brazil (Brazilwood), nogal (walnut), cochineal (the red insect found on the prickly pear cactus paddle), caoba (mahogany bark), palo de aguila (alderwood bark), palo de mora (fustic), pericone (wild marigold), granada (pomegranate) and añil (indigo).
Using a combination of base dyes and over-dyes, we make color variations of red, purple, orange, pink, yellow, green and blue. Based on the wool color and number of dips into the dye bath, the color will be light or intense.
For the complete three-day workshop, the first day is mostly preparation of the materials, starting with making the skeins of yarn. We learn about the history of natural dyes in Mexico, how the pre-Hispanic indigenous people used the dyes, and the symbols of the colors.
(We also offer One and Two-Day Dye Workshops)
To understand the entire dye process, Elsa says that it is important to begin with all the basic preparation steps. This is a time-consuming process and to be a natural dyer one must have patience. This is something we learn in Mexico daily.
On the street below the rooftop terrace where we work sheltered from the sun at the outdoor dye studio, I hear the sound of a high-pitched whistle. It’s the knife sharpener, Elsa says. Other street sounds signal the coming of the gas man and tortilla vendor.
Elsa says even when she uses the same recipes, the color will vary slightly each time. This is handmade, after all! Color intensity depends on the pH of the water, the dryness, age or freshness of the plants and fruits, and the natural shade of the wool. This is chemistry, for sure.
Plus, when there are natural tannic acids in some materials like mahogany, indigo, fustic and pomegranate, the color is stronger.
Day One is a complete introduction to the two most frequently used dyes, pericone and pomegranate, and getting into the mindset of natural dyes, says our participant Rhiannon, a textile and jewelry designer from Canada. But, you don’t have to be experienced or a professional to learn … and have fun with color.
Oaxaca Natural Dye Workshop. We can schedule your experience when you come to Oaxaca.
Oaxaca Hand-crafted Condiments: Suculenta Food Gallery
Food design gallery Suculenta, on Avenida Porfiirio Diaz #207-G, Oaxaca Centro
You might walk by the unmarked building painted sky blue and not even notice what’s inside. Down the street from Boulanc bakery on Av. Porfirio Diaz, closer to Morelos than Murguia, is Suculenta.
Unmarked store front with hidden delicious secrets inside
The food gallery is an off-shoot of the bakery where hand-crafted jellies, jams, edible oils, cheeses, herbs and fresh wild mushrooms from the Sierra Norte are featured prominently on custom-built wood shelving and in commercial refrigerator cases.
Pink wild mushrooms fresh from the Sierra Norte, Oaxaca
This is where Paulina Garcia Hernandez works her culinary magic in a small space that yields big — and delicious — results. By her side is Daniel Lopez Gonzalez who attends to procuring deliciousness from the best purveyors.
Daniel weighs wild mushrooms that grower has just brought in
Not much more to say, other than a great gift for self or another — to drizzle or spread
Jars of succulent condiments to top with, marinate and savor
Shelves are stocked with wild mushroom marinated in vinaigrette, pickled carrots, cucumbers, and vegetable mix. Here you can find organic honey infused with cardamom, too.
Natural light illuminates the interior of Suculenta where Paulina works
All the cooking and canning is done on the premises using fresh organic fruits and vegetables that are local to Oaxaca. Purveyors are selected for the quality of what they produce. Paulina and Daniel establish personal relationships with each.
Paulina’s hand-crafted hibiscus (jamaica) jelly
Sibestre Perez Hernandez brings wild mushrooms to Oaxaca from three-hours away
Silbestre Perez Hernandez comes to Oaxaca from Pueblo Manzanito Tepantepec, in the municipality of Santa Maria Peñoles in the Mixteca mountains west of Zimatlan. Here he harvests the most gorgeous mushrooms I’ve ever seen. He delivers them to Suculenta weekly. I was there on a Tuesday morning to watch the harvest come in.
Top shelf, my favorite: kefir cheese in olive oil, bay leaf, whole black pepper
The artisanal cheese is wonderful for omelets, on top of toast or to eat as a post-dinner course with fresh fruit and a glass of mezcal.
A sampling of hand-crafted rooibos tea, from Andres Alquiara
Andres Alquiara developed a recipe for rooibos tea that he brought to Suculenta for sampling. I smelled it. Delicious. Succulent! Andres is a barrista and his full-time job is at La Brujula. He has a passion for great food and beverage.
This mixed vegetable medley has onions, chiles and spices — top on sandwiches
This creative food gallery endeavor reminds me of a time past when I owned and operated a gourmet cookware shop and cooking school. I, too, once made and sold jams, jellies, cheesecakes, and catered meals. Now, I prefer to support those who believe that good food is an essential part of living a quality life.
For example, flavored oils (sesame) and vinegars (apple) for eating and cooking!
Pickled scallions in vinaigrette — another dill pickle version
Suculenta, Porfirio Diaz #207-G, Centro Historico, Tel: 951-321-3756 (closed Sunday)
Posted in Cultural Commentary, Dining and Lodging, Food & Recipes, Photography, Travel & Tourism
Tagged condiments, food, gallery, gourmet, health, Oaxaca, photos, recipes, shop, store, Suculenta, wild mushrooms