Scientific American 34, 5.5.1855
Indigo was formerly cultivated in Florida, for which the climate and soil is well adapted. It grows wild upon the barrens in almost every portion of the Peninsula. When cultivated by the English in this coutnry, the indigo of Florida was considered in the London market superior to all others, except that of Caraccas. The manner of cultivating and manufacturing advanrageously is as follows:
The seed, which is very small, is soaked for some twelve hours, then mixed with ashed or sand, and sown in drill rows, about eighteen inches apart. The time for sowing in Florida is from the middle of March to the first of April. When the young plant makes it appearance, it resembles white clover, and must be carefully weeded, and the earth kept loosed about its roots. Three weedings are sufficient to carry it up to the first cutting, which commences when the plant begins to bloom, say about the first of July. The plant is sos easily injured by the sun after it is plucked, that the cutting should be in the afternoon. As fast as it is cut, which is done by a sickle, it is carried to a vat called the steeper. This vat is made of plank, is water-tight, and varies in size according to the extent of the operations of the planter. The steeper is filled with cuttings immersed in water. Planks, with weights upon them, are then placed on top to keep the cuttings beneath the water. In this state the steeping is continued for about ten hours, or less, according to the temperature of the water. When the water assumes an olive color, it is drawn into the "beater," another vat, placed alongside and beneath the steeper, and connected by a tube, and fastened with a valve or spigot. The liquid is now churned by hand or with machinery, until it becomes lighter in color, and a blue pecula begins to make its appearance. From time to time lime water is thrown into the beater during the "churning." After the pecula spoken of distinctly appears, the water is suffered to remain about four hours for the indigo to settle. It is then drawn off, the sediment placed in bags, and hung up to drain. When drained sufficiently, it is placed in boxes to dry, under gentle pressure; and when dried firm, it is cut up into square cakes and placed in the shade, to become completely dried by evaporation. The shorter the steeping and the less the beating, the lighter will be the color of the indigo. The indigo plant will yield two or three cuttings a season, and one hand will cultivate about three acres, the result being from 175 to 200 lbs. of the article. Unlike sugar cane or corn, the indigo requires no expensive machinery. Where it is made only for domestic use, barrels are used for steeping and beating. - [Florida News.