vegetable scrap painting

It’s been a looooong cold winter here in Vermont, and it’s only January. When it’s dangerously cold outside (high of -5°F) our family starts getting into science experiments and art projects. Trying to think of ways to brighten up our winter doldrums with a garden-related activity, my mind turned to the KidsGardening lesson plan Exploring Plant Dyes.

Not one to actually follow directions, I took some liberties with this lesson plan. First, I didn’t really want to permanently dye anything, but since we go through an obscene amount of paint in our house, I thought it might be interesting to try to make some paint from vegetable scraps.

As I was scrounging around in the refrigerator for the purple cabbage, I also found some rainbow carrots that had seen better days. My six-year old peeled a few outer leaves off the cabbage, and peeled the carrots. I chopped the carrots, and we put them in two saucepans with a few cups of water. We had one saucepan for the cabbage and dark purple carrots, and another for the yellow and red carrots. (Note, our purple carrots were purple all the way through. Some varieties have purple skin and orange flesh.)

After an hour or so on the stove, our purple veggie scraps yielded a lovely, deep purple water. The yellow and red carrots, though, barely colored the water at all. (We had been hoping for orange.) So I sprinkled in a bit of ground turmeric, and after 15 minutes or so, our water was very orange!

vegetable scrap paintingI strained the veggies out using a fine mesh strainer, and let the water cool in mason jar. I left it on the counter for a few days until we had some time to paint.

This was a mistake.

Guess what happens when you leave cabbage water in a tightly sealed jar at room temperature? Yep, it stinks. The turmeric paint wasn’t as bad.

As we’re painting, my six-year old says, “Mommy, this kind of smells bad. It smells like farts.” 

The colors were muted, but it was still fun. If we did it again, which is a big if, I would plan to paint as soon as the water cooled.

The moral of this blog post? If you follow the directions in KidsGardening lesson plans or activities, you’ll likely have success. If you wing it, you end up with fart paint.

Beth Saunders

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