Wednesday, May 25, 2011


Indigo yarn

Indigo, that color that sits between Blue and Violet on the rainbow spectrum (you all remember Roy G. Biv, don’t you?). That was my first introduction to such an exotic sounding word – Indigo. Elementary school is when we learned that mnemonic technique to help us remember the colors of a rainbow or of light through a prism. It’s a word that has long been a part of my vocabulary (as has the wonderful Crayola colors “burnt umber”, “chartreuse” and “periwinkle”, although I still wonder at times just what “umber” is).

You’re probably more familiar with Indigo than you realize, though. Indigo is the traditional color of blue jeans. A dye that originated in India (see, I told you it was exotic!), indigo is produced using a derivative of the Indigofera plant through oxidation of the amino acid tryptophan. It is the oxidation process that releases the color used for dying cloth.

It was most heavily used in the Mediterranean regions and throughout Asia. Recipes for making dying wool have been found on 7th Century cuneiform tablets out of Mesopotamia. It increased in popularity in Europe after explorers opened sea routes to trade with India and the Spice Islands, thus avoiding the overland tariffs imposed by Persia and Greece who acted as middlemen in the spice trades.

But, there is something calming about the color of original blue jeans, don’t you think? Something that makes you think “comfort”? I’m always disappointed when I find something I like in the indigo color, be it pants, blouse, purse or something else and the fabric is so synthetic that it feels almost plastic. It’s almost an insult to denim. Polyester pants dyed to look like denims just don’t cut it in my book. It just ain’t right, as some might say.

Indigo-colored foods are popular in the holistic care industry. Some assume that because the color indigo affects our sight and hearing, then eating foods of that color help with treatment of diseases related to eyes, ears and nose. This is something I have a hard time connecting, myself. I understand that dark green, leafy vegetables are high in iron, but eating a specific colored food just because the color is calming seems a bit over the top.

That’s not to say that there aren’t benefits in indigo-colored foods. You have blueberries, plums, eggplants (which actually are more purple), huckleberries, etc. There’s no doubt that these foods are full of antioxidants and great additives to your regular diet. But, to eat them simply because they’re indigo colored (or red or yellow or orange or green) comes off as a bit too Feng Shui for me. How about you?

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