The weather this spring has been a roller coaster ride. We have had everything from snow in April to incessant record breaking rain storms. The sky can go as dark as night in seconds, and hail the size of marbles pound the fields, wreaking havoc in the blink of an eye. Mother nature rules, and the cherry crop this year was a devastation for some, depending on how the micro climates of the region were tending. Wine makers suffer greatly, sometimes losing up to 50% of their crop at the momentary whim of Gaia. For Colores del Priorat, I have been amazed at the duration of the red poppies this spring. We are at the start of July and there remain a few fragile hold outs. I attribute this to a very wet spring. However, and I simply can't say why, I have been unable to extract the rich red I found in last years crop. No matter how many batches, nor from what field, I always seem to pull out colors tending towards the violet. I began harvesting in Vinebre, where the fields were alive with red. The pale color of the dye was surprising, no matter how long I let the bath sit. I attributed it to the fact that the area, being abundant with fruit trees, suffers from many farmers using pesticides. Next batch came from the area between Gratallops and Vilella Baixa. Same problem. Finally, knowing that our farm hasn't had any spraying done in years, I harvested our own poppies. Same dilemma, a rich violet, but not last year's red. My conclusion is that perhaps with the inundation of so much water, the pigment in the petals was less concentrated than last year, which was dry and hot by May. As a whim, I experimented with some commercial dried poppy petals I ordered. Even bigger surprise, green! Last year I managed a green from the poppies by using an iron mordant. I am waiting for my friend Carol, from http://www.prioratbeer.com/ to get back to town, so we can try her dried petals.
In the meantime, I am experimenting with commercial saffron, in preparation for my hunt for Crocus Sativus, which my bible, Flora de La Serra de Montsant, by Roger Pascual i Garsaball, assures me can be found in the valley between Vilella Baixa and La Figuera.
My old reliables from last year, euphorbia and helichrysum, continue to give glorious color. The curry like smell of my "Priorat Gold", helichrysum stoechas, continues to intoxicate. The euphorbia this year is a bit weak, the flower smaller than usual, the plant more spindly. Again, perhaps attributable to excessive rain. This is a dry climate, and the native species have adapted accordingly. Too much water and they lose their potency, their flavor, their color. The vagaries of nature.
But, like a snake shedding its skin, each year brings new life. I see the allium ampeloprasum making an appearance, beautiful violet globes that seduce with their color and architectural wonder. But I know, from last years trials, that purple hue will yield a buttery yellow. Or do I? Hm. Stay tuned.