Long ago, this region was renowned for, and made rich by, its woad, a plant that produces a blue dye. Go to Toulouse and you can see the magnificent homes that were built by wealthy woad merchants. Eventually indigo replaced it and the woad industry dried up. In recent years, there has been a small resurgence.
In the small village of Lieurac, a quarter of an hour away, Andie at Renaissance Dyeing (www.renaissancedyeing.com) grows woad in her magnificent south-facing garden. Last week, she invited a bunch of us over to harvest, process and dye with her woad--and enjoy an outdoor pot-luck lunch.
Absolutely everything you want to know about woad--its history, how to grow it, how to dye with it--is at www.woad.org.uk so I won't get into specifics. Just know that woad leaves look somewhat like spinach, have to be washed very carefully, then torn, then simmered...and you mustn't let air get into the dye vat It's a very complicated process but the results are beautiful.I'm not a big fan of the colour blue but woad's soft depth is irresistible. Andie also had an indigo pot going.
Some shots of the process, the results and--of course--the lunch.