Gardeners Dictionary: Indigofera
containing The Best and Newest Methods of Cultivating and Improving The Kitchen, Fruit, Flower Garden, and Nursery; As also for Performing the Practical Parts of Agriculture: Including The Management of Vineyards, With the Methods of Making and Preserving Wine, According to the present Practice of The most skilful Vignerons in the several Wine Countries in Europe.
Together with Directions for propagating and improving, From real Practice and Experience, All sorts of Timber Trees.
The Eight Edition,
Revised and Altered according to the latest System of Botany; and Embellished with several Copper-Plates, which were not in some former Editions.
By Philip Miller, F. R. S.
Gardener tothe Worshipdul Company of Apothecaries, at their Botanic Garden in Chelsea, and Member of the Botanic Academy at Florence.
Printed for the Author;
M. DCC. LXVIII.
INDIGOFERA. Lin. Gen. 889. Indigo.
The Characters are,
The empalement is of one leaf, spreading almost flat, and cut into five segments; the flower is of the butterfly kind, having a roundish spreading standard, which is indented at the point and reflexed: the wings are oblong, obtuse, spreading, and acute-pointed. It hath ten stamina digested in a cylindar whose points ascend, terminated by a roundish summits, and a cylindrical germen, supporting a short style, crowned by an obtuse stigma. The germen afterward becomes a long taper pod, inclosing kidney-shaped seeds.
This genus of plants is ranged in the third section of Linnæus's seventeenth class, intitled Diadelphia Decandria, from the flowers having ten stamina formed in two bodies.
The Species are,
1. INDIGOFERA (Tinctoria) leguminibus arcuatis incanis, racemis folio brevioribus. Flor. Zeyl. 272. Indigo with hoary arched pods, and the bunches of flowers shorter than the leaves. Anil sive Indigo Americana, siliquis in falculæ modum contortis. Acad. R. Scien. 1718. Guatimala indigo.
2. INDIGOFERA (Suffructicosa) leguminibus arcuatis incanis, caule fruticosa. Indigo with a shrubby stalk, and hoary arched pods. Colutea affinis fruticosa argentea, floribus spicatis è viride purpureis, siliquis falcatis. Sloan. Cat. Jam. 142.
3. INDIGOFERA (Caroliniana) leguminibus teretibus, foliolis quinis spicis longissimis sparsis, ratlice perenne. Indigo with taper pods, leaves with five lobes, long loose spikes of flowers, and a perennial root.
4. INDIGOFERA (Indica) leguminibus pendulis lanatis compressis, foliis pinnatis. Indigo with woolly, compressed, hanging pods, and winged leaves.
5. INDIGOFERA (Glabra) leguminibus glabris teretibus, foliolis trifoliatis. Indigo with smooth taper pods, and trifolicate leaves.
The first and fifth sorts are annual plants with us; the seeds of these must be sown on a hot-bed early in the spring of the year, and when the plants are come up two inches high, they should be transplanted into small pots filled with good fresh earth, and the pots plunged into a hot-bed of tanners bark; when the plants have obtained some strength, they must have a great share of free air, by raising the glasses in the day time; and in June they may be exposed more to the open air, by which time they will begin to produce their flowers, which will be succeeded by pods in a short time after, and in August their seeds will be perfected, if the plants are brought forward in the spring.
The second sort grows to the height of five or six feet, and will abide two or three years, if it is preserved in a very warm stove in winter; this produces spikes of flowers from the wings of the leaves on the sides of the stemps of the plant, and sometimes will perfect its seeds in England. This must be raised in a hot-bed, as was directed fro the two former, but must not be wholly exposed to the open air, even in the hottest weather.
The fourth sort is supposed to be promiscuonsly used to make the Indigo, but the first is the common sort which is cultivated in the English plantations in America; but I have been assured by a person of great credit, that he has made as good Indigo from the second sort, as any that was produced in out plantations; and this being a much larger plant, will afford a greater quantity from the same compass of ground, than any one of the other species, especially if cut before the stalks grow ligneous; and this sort will grow on poorer land, so may be cultivated in such places where the first sort will not thrive so well, by which means great improvements may be made with this plant in our American plantations. There are some other sorts of this plant which are natives of India, from which this commodity is made; two of which, viz. the fourth and fifth sorts I have had growing in the garden at Chelsea, both which are very different in their leaves and pods from either of the American sorts which have been cultivated. I have also received seeds from India of the third sort, which is the same species of Indigo which grows naturally in South Carolina, and which was greatly esteemed some years ago by the Indigo planters of that country, for the beauty of the commodity which it produced; but the plants being slender and thinly garnished with leaves, which were small, they did not furnish a quantity of Indigo in proportion to their bulk, so of late this sort has not been much cultivated there; though the account which I received with the seeds was, that it was what the best Indigo of India was made from.
The whole process in making the Indigo being exactly described by Pere Labat in his voyages, I thought it would not be unacceptable to this English reader, to translate his account in this place, which is as follows:
There was formerly a great deal of Indigo made in the parish of Macauba: there is not a stream nor river in it, where one does not meet with Indigo works, that is, backs or vats of stone-work well cemented, in which the plant that yields the dye is put to digest: there are usually three of these vats one above another, in the manner of a cascade; so that the second, which is lower than the bottom of the first, may receive the liquor contained in the first, when the holes which are made in the bottom of the first, may receive the liquor contained in the first, when the holes which are made in the bottom of the first are unstopped; and that the third may in its turn receive what was in the second.
The first, largest, and highest of these vats is called the steeper or rot; it is usually made twenty feet long, twelve or fifteen feet wide, and three or four feet deep. The second is called the battery, it is almist half as small as the first: and the third, which is much less than the second, is called the devilling. The names of the two first perfectly agree with their uses, for the plant is laid to steep in the first, where it ferments, is macerated, and becomes like rotten dung: after that the salts and substance of the leaf and rind are diffused in the water by the fermentation, which the heat and ripeness of the plant has excited in it. It is in the second that they agitate and beat this water, impregnated and loaded with the salts of the plant, till having collected, re-united, and, as it were, coagulated them with one another, they form the particles which compose the dye.
As for the name of the third, I do not see how it agrees with it, unless it be because this vat is deeper coloured than the others; for the Indigo already formed remaining in it, consequently dyes and colours it much deeper than the others.
To which I should add, that is only at St. Domingo that they make use of this name. In the Windward Islands they call this last vat the settler, and this name suits it perfectly well, because it is in this, that the Indigo begun in the steeper, and perfected in the battery unites, grows into a mass, separates itself from the particles of water which remained in it, leaves them at top, and settles at the bottom of the vat; whence it is taken out to be put into little bags, and then into the boxes, as I shall mention hereafter.
Nothing ought to be omitted in the building and making these vats substanctial; the strength of the fermentation is so great, that unless the stone-work and plaster be very well done, and the mortar carefully chosen and wrought, they crack; and a very moderate crack is sufficient to let out a vat of Indigo, and cause a considerable loss to the owner.
When this misfortune happens, the following is an easy an infallible remedy, which I can answer for, as having experienced it. Take some sea shells of any kind whatever, pound them without burning them, powder them, and sift them through a fine sieve. Take an equal quantity of quick lime and sift it; mix these together with water enough to make a stiff mortar, and as quick as you can, stop the cracks of your vats with it. This mixture incorporates, sticks, and dries in a moment, an immediately prevents the matter's running out of the vat.
Every body does, or should know, that Indigo is a dye used to dye wool, silk, cloths, and stuffs, blue: the Spaniards call it Anilo: the finest they make, i. e. in New Spain, comes from Guatimala, which makes a great many people to call it barely Guatimalo. It is made also in the East-Indies, particularly in the dominions of the Great Mogul, the kingdom of Golconda, and other places thereabouts, as Mr. Tavernier relates in his voyages. This sort is in Europe oftener called India than Indigo or Anil, people taking for its proper name the name of the place it was made at. Some authors, and among others, Father du Tertre of our order, having fancied that the Indigo which comes from the East-Indies is more beautiful, finer, and dearer, than that which comes from the West-Indies, which they call flat Indigo, while they call that from the East barely India. They would have spoken more properly, if they had called the latter round India; for, by their leave, all the difference between the two Indias, or Indigos, is, that that made in the East-Indies is shaped like half eggs, and hat of the West like cakes; for as for goodness and beauty, the one will not be a whit superior to the other, if both are wrought with equal care and fidelity.
The shape of the Oriental Indigo obliges the merchants who would carry it into Europe to pound it, that they may put the more into the chests, or barrels they put it up in. It is certain, that being thus pounded, its grain having been broken under the pestle, ground, and reduced to powder, makes it finer than the West-Indian Indigo, which coming in cakes just as it was dried, shews its grain entire, and consequently must appear coarser; but what is that to the intrinsic goodness of the commodity; I maintin it is the same in both, though there seems to be a difference.
To be convinced of this truth, take a lump of sugar equally white throughout, break it in two, pound one part of it, and reduce it to powder; this will look finer and whiter than that which is whole, which proceeds only from this, thet the frain of the one has been separated and divided into a greater number of parts, which, though very small, and almost infensible, yet have a greater number of surfaces, and consequently reflect more light; whereas the other remaining entire, presenting to the sight only a large grain, which has but little surface, of course reflects less light, and by a necessary consequence must appear less white; which is the same as appearing less beautiful, since the beauty of sugar consists in its whiteness. Methinks we may reason in the same manner upon Indigo, and say, that cæteris paribus, the West-Indian Indigo is as beautiful as the East-Intian, when they are both wrought alike.
I think I should add, that the American Indigo is better for use than the other; for who does not see, that there is no pounding this dye, without the most subtle parts being dissipated in the air, as Mr. Tavernier allows? And who can doubt that these parts are the best, and those that go farthest when it is used?
I grant that the Indigo which comes from the East-Indies, is dearer than that which is made in the West-Indies; the reason is plain, it comes farther, runs greater risks; and those who bring it would not find their account in selling it, at the same price with that which comes from a much nearer place; but that does not at all prove it to be more beautiful, or better.
Indigo is composed of the salt and substance of the leaves and rind of a plant of the same name; so that one may say, it is a dissolution or digestion of the plant, caused by the fermentation it has excited in the water it has laid to steep in. I know some writers pretend, tha tthe substance of the leaves does not produce the Indigo, which (as they would have it) is only a viscous tincture, or colour, which the fermentation of the plant diffuses in the water: but before I take their words for it, I desire they would tell me what becomes of the substance of the plant; for when it is taken out of the steeper, it is certain, that it has no longer the same weight, consistence, nor colour, it had before. The leaves, which were very plump, and very full of juice, are light, slabby, and withered, and look more like dung than any thing else, which makes them frequently give the name of rot to the steeper. If then we no longer find in the leaves, and the rest of the plant, the same substance that was observable in it before it was laid to steep, it is not most natural to believe, that it is the same substance and salts, which, being freed from their inclosures, and diffused in the water, have thickened it, and by their union or coagulation have formed that blue mass which they call Indigo, so useful in painting and dyeing?
The culture.] This plant requires a good rich level soil, not too dry; it greatly robs and improverishes the ground where it grows, and must be alone. There cannot be too much care taken to keep it clean, and to hinder herbs of any kind whatever from growing near it. They weed and cleanse the ground where they intend to plant the Indigo seed, five times over. I should think they should call it sowing, but the term of planting is consecrated in our isles, and I do not think I ought for the sake of a word to fall out with our planters, who deserve our esteem upon a thousand accounts, though they have got a habit of murdering the French language. They sometimes carry their neatness to such a pitch, that they sweep the piece of ground as they do a room. After that they make the holes wherein the seeds are to be put for this purpose; the slaves, or others, who are to work at it, range themselves in the same line, at the top of the pice of ground; and going backwards they make little drills the breadth of their hoe, of the depth of two or three inches, at about a foot distance every way, and as much as possible in a strait line. When they are come to the end of the ground, each furnishes himself with a little bag of seeds, and returning that way they came, they put eleven or thirteen seeds into each of the holes they have made. A relick of superstition has taught them that the number must be off. I by no means approve of this practice, but I shall take care not to endeavour to shew them the uselessnes and folly of it, being satisfied I shall only lose my time and labour.
This work is most toilsome of any in the manufacture of Indigo; for those who plant it must be always stooping, without rising up, till the planting of the whole length of the piece is ended; so that when that is large, which almost always happens, they are obliged to remain two hours, and oftern more, in this posture.
When they come to the top of the piece, they go back again, and cover the holes where they have put the seed in, by thrusting in with their feet the earth they had taken out of them, and so the seed is covered with about two inches of earth.
The culture of this plant may be rendered very easy, provided the inhabitants of out colonies in America could be brought to make use of the drill plough; for with this instrument two persons and a horse or mule will sow more land with Indigo in one day, than twenty persons can perform in the same time, in the method now practised; for the plough makes the frill, and the hopper which is fixed to the plough follows, and scatters the seeds at equal distances in the drills; and another instrument behind the hopper covers in the drills, whereby the whole operation is performed at the same time, and with great ease. Indeed the use of this machine must be understood by the persons who are to perform it, otherwise they will do it in a bad manner, but a little practise will bring any person to the right use of it.
As the Indigo is sown in rows, a hoeing plough may be made of a proper dimension, in order to clean the ground between the rows: with this contrivance it may be performed in much less time than in the method now practised. But in doing of this, I would advise the stirring of the ground, soon after the Indigo plants are come up, before the weeds have got much strength, at which time they are soon destroyed; and by stirring of the ground the plants will greatly encouraged, and the strongest and most thriving plants will always make the best Indigo.
What Le Bat says of cutting the plants before they are too old, in order to have the Indigo of a better colour, is certainly right. Therefore as soon as the flowers begin to appear, it should be cut; for if it stands much longer the stems of the plants will grow hard and stringy, and the lower leaves will change to a yellowish colour, which will render the Indigo less valuable; as will also the plants being too close together, which will occasion their bottom leaves to decay for want of free air: the same will happen if weeds are suffered to grow among the plants. Therefore there must be great regard to their being kept always clean.
Though all seasons are good for the planting of Indigo, yet care must be taken not to put it in the ground in a dry time: it is true, the seed may keep a whole month in the ground, without being spoiled; but when it is planted so, one runs the risk of having it eaten up by vermin, or carried away by the twind, or choked by the weeds that spring up with it; so that the prudent planters never run the risk of planting it dry, i. e. at a time when they do not probably expect rain in two or three days after the planting is ended: they chuse therefore, usually, a moist season, which promises rain, and then they are sure of seeing the plant spring up in three or four days after its being planted.
Notwithstanding all the care that has been taken in clearing the ground where the seeds have been planted, the planter must not be careless when the Indigo is got above ground; because the goodness of the soil, joined to the moisture and warmth of the climate, and the plentiful dews that fall every night, makes a prodigious quantity of weeds spring up, which would choke and absolutely spoil the Indigo, if extreme care was not taken to weed them up as soon as they appear, and to keep the plant extraordinary neat; and very often the weeds are partly the cause of the breeding of a kind of caterpillars, which devour all the leaves in a short time.
From the time of the plants rising above ground, to its perfect maturity, is but two months, and then it is fit to cut: if one was to stay longer it would blossom, its leaves would grow drier and harder, and consequently they would yield less substance, and the colour would not be near so beautiful.
After this first cutting, the new branches and leaves which the plant produces may be cut about every six weeks, provided the season be rainy, and that care be taken not to cut it in a time of drought, because then we should infallibly lose the plant, or, as they call it there, the Choupues, and be obliged to plant again; but all things being rightly managed, the plant may last two years; after which it must be plucked up, and new ones planted.
When the plant is ripe, which is known by the leaves, which grow brittle and less supple, they cut it some inches from the ground. They use for the cutting of it great cooked knives made like sickles. Some planters make it into bundles like double bottles of hay, that a negro may easily carry them to the steeper; but most people put it into large pieces of coarse cloth, which they tie by the four corners; and this is more convenient, the plant is less handles and squeezed, and the small are carried away as safely as the great; and besides the word goes on quicker this way, than in making bottles; and as time is precious every where, and aspecially in America, there cannot be too much care taken not to lose any.
Eighteen or twenty packets of plants, each about the size of two bottles of hay, are sufficient to fill a steeper of the afore-mentioned size. When it is filled with water, so that it covers the plants, they put pieces of wood on the top, that the plants may bot rise abovet the water (much after the manner as they do upon the Grapes that are put into the press) and let ail ferment. According as the heat is greater or less, or the plant more or less ripe, the fermentation is raised sooner or later, sometimes in six, eight, or ten hours; and sometimes one is obliged to wait eighteen or twenty hours, but very seldom longer. Then the effect of the fermentation visibly appears, the water heats, and boils up on all sides, as the Grapes fo in the vat; and the water which at first was clear, insensibly grown thick, and becomes of a blue, inclining to a Violet colour. Then without meddling at all with the plants, they open the cocks, which are at the bottom of the steeper, and let all this water, loaded with the salts and substance of the plant, which were freed by the fermentation, run into the battery; and while they throw away as useless, and almost rotten, the plants that were in the steeper, and clean it, that it may be filled with fresh, they beat the water, which they have let out of the steeper into the battery.
They formerly used for this purpose a battledoor wheel, whose axle was placed upon the middle of the vat, and which they turned by two handles that were at the end of the same axle. Since that, in the room of battlefoors, they have put little bottomless boxes, and afterwards others, whose bottoms were bored full of holes: at present they use a kind of pretty large pails, fastened to strong poles, placed upon chandeliers, by means of which, the negroes violently and continually raise, beat, and stir the water, till the salts and other parts of the substance of the plant are united, and sufficiently, as it were, coagulated to incorporate.
The hitting this minute exactly shews the skill of him who oversees the making of the Indigo; for if he makes them leave off beating a little too soon, the grain not yet formed, remains dispersed in the water, without sinking and gathering together at the bottom of the vat, and is lost with the water, when they are obliged to let it out, which is a great loss to the owner; or if when it is formed they continue to bear, they dissolve it, and the same inconvenience follows. This minute then must be nicked, and when it is found, they must leave off beating and let the matter rest.
To find this minute, they make use of a little silver cup, designed for this use alone; they fill it with this water, while the negroes beat it, and according as they observe that the fæces sink to the bottom of the cup, or remain dispersed in the water, they cease, or continue beating.
The General Dictionary printed at Trevoux, relates very seriously, ypon the credit of father Plumier a minim, that the Indigo-maker having taking up some of the water of this battery in his cup, spits in it; and that if the Indigo be formed, the fæces immediately sink to the bottom of the cup, and that then he makes them leave off beating, if not, he makes them continue it. This is not the only incident in which people have imposed upon father Plumier's credulity and simplicity. I have been a witness of it upon other occasions.
When they have left off beating they let the matter rest, the fæces sink to the bottom of the vat, and gather together like a kind of mud; and the water freed from all the salts it was impregnated with, swims above it, and grows clear. Then they open the cocks, which are placed in the battery at different distances from the bottom, and let this water run away; and when they come to the surface of the fæces, they open the cocks of the bottom, that the fæces may all fall into the decilling or settler. There they let it settle a little while longer, after which they put it into linen bags, fifteen or eighteen inches long, made with a point, where it perfectlt purges itself from the rest of the water, which remained among its particles. When that is done, they spread it in little boxes three or four feet long, two feet broad, and about three inches deep, and expose it to the air to dry it perfectly. They observe not to expose it to the air to dry it perfectly. They observe not to expose it to the sun, because it would starve the colour in drying it; and they take a great deal of care to keep it from the rain, because that would dissolve and utterly spoil it.
It sometimes happens that the catepillars get among the Indigo; and if they are let alone ever to little a while they eat all the leaves, and often the very rind and ends of the branches, and kill the stocks; it is but lost time to endeavour to destroy them, or hinder them from ravaging a whole piece, by stopping them with a ditch. The surest way is to cut down the Indigo with all speed, let its age be what it will, and to throw both plants and caterpillars together into the steeper; there they burst, and part with what they had devoured, and the Indigo is not the less beautiful for it. It is true, when the plant is not come to its perfect maturity, it yields much less; but many experiments have taught us, that the colour it yields is much more beautiful; so that what is lost one way is gained another.
I would not wait for so perfect a ripeness before I cut the plant. Perhaps all the secret of those, whose Indigo is sos much extolled beyound ours, lies only in cutting the plant when it yields the liveliest colour. I have experinced that in leaving some cochineal flies upon some Indian Figs, which were too ripe, instead of being red, they grew of a silemot colour, like the fruit they fed upon. The same thing might happen in Indigo; and what I here propose is not a groundless doubt, since it is backed by the experiment I have just related; which plainly proves, that the same plant, cut at different ages, produces colours different in beauty. I would not venture to give this advice to men wedded to their interest, who value the quantity rather than the quality of their commodity; but I believe I have nothing to fear from our islanders, who are generous and magnificent, sometimes even beyond their abilities: I advice them therefore to make different trials, as to the soil, the season, the age of the plant, the water they steep it in, the point of dissolution, &c. and I am sure, that with a little time, labour, and patience, they will make Indigo that will equal, and even excel, the most boasted Indigo of foreign countries. The planters of St. Domingo know that in 1701 their coarse sugar was very bad, and was not made without infinite trouble; and at present every body allows, that by their labour, affiduity, and enquiries, it is grown much more esteemed than that of the Windward Islands: why may not the same be hoped for in Indigo?
Mr. Pomet, author of the general History of Drugs, says in his first part, cap. 10. That the Indians of the village of Sarqueffe, near Amadabat, use only the leaves of the Indigo, and throw away the plant and branches; and that it is from thence the most esteemed Indigo comes.
I am pretty much of his opinion; for we see, that those who take the pains to strip off the Grapes from the branches, before they put them into the vat, and throw away the stalks entiretly, make much the best wine; because the stalks always contain an acid, which mixes with the juice of the Grape in the tredling and pressing them both together; and for the same reason, the stalks of the Indigo plant must contain a liquid much less perfect in colour than that of the leaves: but one ought to have the leisure and patience of the Indians to undertake such a work, and have workmen as cheap as they are in that country, supposing the fact true, as Mr. Pomet delivers it from the relation of Mr. Tavernier.
Though I am a great friend to those experiments which may carry out manufactures to a greater perfection, yet I dare not propose this, because of the expence they must be at, who would try it; and because the proft arising from it would not perhaps quit cost: however, I have here given the method of the Indians of Sarqueffe, that I may have no reason to reproach myself with having omitted a thing which may be of some use to my country.
Good Indigo ought to be so light, as to swin upon water; the more it sinks the more it is to be suspected of being mixed with earth, ashes, or powdered slate. Its colour ought to be a deep blue, inclining to a Violet, brilliant, lively, and bright: it ought to be more beautiful within than without, and look shining, and as it were silvered.
If it is too heavy in proportion to its bulk, it ought to be suspected, and its quality examined into; for as it often bears a considerable price, it is fit that those who buy it, should be acquainted with the frauds that may be committed in it.
The first is the beating the plant too much in the steeper, that the leaves and rind of it may be entirely consumed. It is certain that the quantity of the matter is very considerably incleased by this dissolution, but the Indigo is a great deal the less beautiful for it; it is blackish, thick, heavy, and fitter to be thrown away than used.
The second is the mixing ashes, earth, or a certain brown shining sand (which is pretty commonly found in the bays by the sea-side) and especially powdered slate, with the fæces, as they fall into the devilling, and stirring all well together, that it may incorporate, and the fraud not appear: and this fraud is much more easily committed in the powdered Indigo, than in that which is in cakes; because it is very difficult for those heterogeneous bodies to unite so well together, as not to make in many places, as it were, beds of a different matter; and then, by breaking the piece of Indigo, they are easily perceived.
The two following expedients may be made use of, in order to know the goodness or badness of Indigo.
The first is to dissolve a bit of it in a glass of water. If it is pure and well made, it will entirely dissolve; but if it is adulterated, the foreign matter will sink to the bottom of the glass.
The second is to burn it. The good Indigo will burn all away, whereas the ashes, earth, sand, and slate, remain after the true Indigo is consumed.
In 1694, Indigo was sold at the Windward Islands, from three livres ten sols, to four livres per pound, according to its beauty, and the number of vessels to be freighted with it. I have known it since at a much lower price; jowever, the planter would not fail of making a very considerable profit of it, though he should sell it for no more than forty sols per pound, because this commodity requires fewer utensils and less charges than a sugar-work.
Since the cultivation of Indigo was introduced in South Carolina, great quantities of that useful dye has been brought from thence to England; and it may be hoped that the encouragement granted by parliament to the planters, will enable them to prosecute this branch of commerce with such success, as to be a great national benefit, and of equal advantage to that colony: but as yet the planters have not arrived to so much perfection in the making of it as could be wished; for most of the Indigo which I have seen of the produce of that country, has been so hard as to render it difficult to dissolve, occasioned by their pouring a wuantity of lime-water into the vat, in order to make the fæces of the plant subside. I have also been informed by letters from may of the planters, that after the fermention of the plant in the vat, it comes out again almost entire, being but in a very small proportion lessened, either in bulk or weight. This may probably be owing, in great part, to their culture of the plant, as also from their vats not being large enough to contain a sufficient quantity of the herb, to make the fermentation strong enough to dissolve it; or from the vats being built in the open air, whereby the fermentation may be impeded, by the cooler breezes of the evening air: for in the islands where the best Indigo is made, their vats are all built under cover, where their heat is much greater than that in Carolina, therefore this requires the attention of the planters of Indigo.
As to the culture of the plant, by all the information I have been able to procure from thence, they commit a great error in sowing their seeds too thick, whereby the plants are drawn up with slender stems, which are not sufficiently garnished with leaves; nor are the leaves so large and succulent as they would naturally grown, were the plants allowed a greater share of room, so that the stalks consist of little else but strong vessels which are not dissolvable by the dermentation, and it is only the upper parts of the plant which are furnished with leaves, like young trees growing close together which are drawn up with slender stems, having no lateral branches, nor leaves, but at their tops; therefore it is not to be supposed, a great quantity of Indigo can be produced from plants so managed; for it is a common observation of the cultivators of Woad, that when their plants spire, and have narrow thin leaves, they produce but little of the dye; so that they make choice of rich strong land for sowing the seeds of this plant, and are careful to thin them, that they may have room to spread, and produce large succulent leaves, from which they always reap the greatest profit. If the planters of Indigo in America would but imitate the cultivators of Woad in this particular, they would certainly find their advantage in so doing.
Another thing in which they err is, letting the plant stand too long before they cut it, supposing from the height of the plant to procure a great quantity of the dye; but in this they are greatly mistaken, for the older the plant is before it is cut, the drier and firmer will be the stalks; therefore but little of the plant will be dissolved by fermentation, nor will the fæces of the old plants be near so beautiful as that of the young. Therefore it is to be wished, that they would try some few experiments in the culture and management of the plants, by sowing thin, and keeping the plants perfectly clean from weeds; as also to cut them while young and full of juice, and hereby they will be better informed how to improve it to the greatest advantage. But as labour is dear in that country, so many persons probably object to the expence of cultivating the Indigo in this method; therefore, to avoid this, I have before proposed sowing the seeds with a drill plough, whereby the first expence will be greatly lessened, and the seeds more equally sown; and by the use of the hoe plough, ten acres may be kept clean from weeds with as small expence, as one when managed by the hand hoe; and by stirring of the ground often, and earthing up the plants, they would grow much stronger, be less liable of being destroyed by flies, and have larger and more succulent stalks and leaves.