Farmer-florist Kristen Jas Vietty (of Lunaria Gardens) produced the video embedded below to introduce an alternative use of an orchard plant seen in POP community orchards. The process was one of science and discovery! As you can see from watching the video, please don’t undertake any experiments like this without proper safety equipment (goggles, gloves) or ventilation. Kristen provides some links below to connect readers to more information about the natural dye process.

Beyond its use as a dye, perilla is also edible, often used as an accent flavor in salads, muddled into beverages, or as a garnish in sushi. It’s commonly used as a food dye to make umeboshi, Japanese pickled plums. And, it’s a beautiful plant, as discussed in this post on perennial food forest favorites for floral design. Growing instructions can be found here or via video here.

Kristen Jas Vietty’s Purple Perilla Natural Dye pH Experiment


Purple perilla or shiso (Perilla frutescens purpurascens) is a fragrant annual herb native to Asia. A member of the mint family, it freely self-seeds, so I like to plant it along rock walls or brick walkways, where less useful weeds would otherwise proliferate. It’s very easy to uproot where it’s not wanted. I cut it hard summer through fall for use in floral design, so I end up with lots of stripped leaves from the bottoms of the stems. I also like it paired with fresh fruit or juices, or in tea or smoking blends.


The chemistry of natural dyes:

Dyeing with nettles, onion skins, avocado, blackberries, without mordant:

Dyeing with mint and alum and iron mordant:

Solar yarn dyeing:

The Mordant debate:

Plant-derived mordant research:


Host: Kristen Jas Vietty

Camera: Koof Ibi Umoren

Editing: Peterson Goodwyn

Location: Lunaria Gardens, West Philadelphia 

Fabric sponsor: The Kitchen Garden Series

This blog post was written by Kristen Jas Vietty and edited by POP co-executive Director Kim Jordan. SUPPORT US!  If you found this content useful, informative, or inspiring, please consider a donation of any size to help POP in planting and supporting community orchards in Philadelphia: