Say “Gumbi.” Pokey! Or, in this case, pokeberry.
Pokeweed is a toxic (yet edible if prepared correctly) perennial plant with a bright pinkpinkpink stalk and dark purple, almost black berries. The berries produce a vibrant fuchsia juice that can be used for dye and ink. Unfortunately, the color, although striking, does not have good longevity. Since I’ve been on an ink making kick with the black walnuts I decided to try a pokeberry ink recipe I found through the The Fountain Pen Network (there is also an interesting discussion of the process and the ink results). It uses yeast to ferment the berries in order to preserve the ink (although denatured alcohol might do the trick).
Materials: Pokeberries, 2 20 oz clean plastic bottles, cheesecloth/coffee filter, gloves, rubber band, package of yeast, large bowl, gum arabic (if desired)
Pick and wash 8 ounces of ripe berries (I did a triple batch) and funnel into a 20 oz plastic bottle. Screw on the cap and shake vigorously until the berries are pulpy.
Remove the cap and pour one package of yeast into the bottle. Replace cap and shake again so the yeast is dispersed. I also put two teaspoons of gum arabic (found in powdered and solution form in most art stores) in my ink in order to emulsify the dye and help the ink bind to the page.
Remove cap and replace with a square of cheesecloth and secure with a rubber band. Place the bottle in the dark at room temperature for at least 24 hours.
Using a larger piece of cheesecloth, strain the contents of the bottle into a bowl.
Place a coffee filter in a funnel and the funnel into a clean bottle. Slowly pour the unfiltered liquid into it. This process can take a few hours. If you are impatient you can squeeze the filter, but be gentle- the fiber breaks easily.
Transfer ink into a container of your choice and store away from direct light.