Madder Root Harvest at MA Center Chicago

Man holding freshly harvested madder root in his hand

Madder has been grown for centuries for its excellent dyeing properties. A member of the coffee family, this perennial has roots that make for a bright red dye that doesn’t fade in the light. Madder root is a natural source of red, pink, orange, apricot, lilac, purple, brown, and black shades of dye, ink, and paint. 

Amma says that in the olden days, there were plenty of medicinal plants that benefited people whereas today, people live out of harmony with Nature. While many people talk a lot about environmental preservation, true greatness lies in putting these principles into practice and actually doing something about it.

Fortunately, the demand for natural dyes is increasing due to the many health and environmental benefits natural dyes offer. High quality madder root is a sought-after crop used in the creation of natural dyes, as it can produce a variety of reds including orange reds, brick red, blood red, and fiery reds. The precise hue depends upon the soil the madder root was grown in and other factors, including processing methods.

A few years ago, MA Center Chicago dedicated 5 acres to growing plants, including madder, for natural dyeing purposes. Once harvested, the first MA Center Chicago madder root crop was tested to determine its quality. The results were excellent, demonstrating strong hue and color fastness (the resistance of a fabric to change in its color characteristics or to transfer its color to adjacent material).

“We were very impressed with the color yield from the madder root supplied by Amrita.  We dyed several side-by-side comparisons with other madder root and the Amrita madder outperformed Indian madder root and yielded darker and redder shades. It is a very fine product,” said Kathy Hattori, president of Botanical Colors.

In September, MA Center Chicago community members gathered alongside Swami Shantamritananda Puri for a harvest of madder root planted years ago. Next, the madder root will be processed for use as a natural dye. With some big names in the fashion industry, such as Eileen Fisher, beginning to embrace eco-fashion through more sustainable and healthy dyes, MA Center Chicago looks forward to helping supply high quality madder root for use in creating beautiful colors for natural dyeing. Additionally, Amma's University is also interested in the field of natural dyes, and we hope to collaborate with them in the near future.