This is an excerpt from the article Walnuts for Food, Medicine + Craft by Ashley Moore, featured in the Autumn edition of Botanical Anthology A plant lover’s dream, it is a seasonal, plant centered quarterly publication bringing you over 50 articles from 49 contributors to incorporate herbs in your apothecary, kitchen, foraging and gardening, crafts, and celebrations.
To learn more about how to forage and process walnuts and their medicinal qualities check out our autumn edition. This herbal magazine, featuring remedies and recipes with medicinal plants for budding herbalists, can be purchased as a digital version here and as a printed version here.
Besides their many uses as medicine, food, and drink, walnuts are also valuable as an ink and dye. The hulls of the walnut are what are used to make ink. Whole young walnuts that have fallen from the tree before ripening can also be used. The color will vary a bit depending on the species of walnut tree, the amount of sunshine the tree is exposed to, the amount of water it has had, and whether fresh or dried hulls are used. The shade can range from light brown to very deep brown. All species of walnut make beautiful ink, with black walnut yielding the darkest brown.
To use, fill a small dish or bottle cap with a little of your ink. Dip a quill in the ink and write, dipping every so often as the ink runs out. An empty fountain pen also works well. To use this ink for painting, simply dip a paintbrush in the ink and use it as you would use watercolors.
M A K E
8-10 young walnuts found on the ground, or 2 cups of walnut hulls
Large pot reserved for dyeing
Metal spoon or stick to stir the pot
2 tbsp white vinegar
2 tsp salt
Small metal funnel
Three or four 1oz dropper bottles to store the ink
If using young walnuts, cut them up into grape-sized pieces before adding them to the pot; if using hulls, they can be broken in half.
In a designated dye pot, pour rain water or filtered water over the hulls just to cover.
Simmer on low for at least a couple of hours, until most of the water has evaporated, and the liquid in the pot is a very dark brown. The longer the hulls simmer, the deeper the ink will be.
The color can be tested by dipping a small paintbrush into the ink and making a mark on a piece of white paper. Once the ink reaches the color you desire, turn off the heat and stir in the vinegar and salt until the salt is dissolved. Strain out the solids with a fine mesh strainer. The ink can also be filtered through a disposable coffee filter to make it very clear without grains of plant material in it.
Pour the ink into the dropper bottles using the funnel.
Add a few drops of gum arabic to each dropper bottle to bind the ink, close the lid, give a gentle shake to mix it, and it is ready to use!
Ashley lives an ordinary, magical life in California, where she grows flowers for food, medicine, and skincare as a way to connect with the Earth, her family, and her community. Find her in her books "The Women's Heritage Sourcebook" and "The Children's Heritage Sourcebook" and on Instagram @motherhestia
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