Kelly and Chocineal

First off, many thanks to all of you for the well wishes for Kelly. She made it home and up the 30 steps to the house yesterday. The first few weeks after open heart surgery are rough and she’s, obviously, taking it easy today. Is suspect she’ll be up and about faster than after the emergency surgery of four years ago but she’s still in for a long recovery.

Because of Covid I couldn’t visit her in the hospital so I puttered in the garden to distract myself. During the puttering I discovered that our prickly pear cactus has became a host for the cochineal bug. A lot of the prickly pear in our neighborhood has cochineal but, for some reason, it never made it to our place until this year.

The cochineal bug (Dactylopius coccus) is a scale insect that produces carminic acid which is extracted for use as a red textile and food dye. I thought cochineal dying might make for the perfect quarantine craft project until I did some research.  Like many things worth doing, harvesting and dying textiles with cochineal is a process that takes experience and skill.

The Zapotec people of Oaxaca have been practicing this skill for a thousand years. In the video above you can see how cochineal is harvested and some spectacular dye work.

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  1. Yea! And three cheers for Kelly! It is wonderful to know she is home and doing well. Continued prayers and positive energy to you both from this side of the internet!
    Thanks so much for posting the video. I had this ‘problem’ when I lived near Tucson and I never knew what that white fuzz was. I probably would have tried to use it to dye something had I known. Instead I was out there every few days spraying it off so it would not kill the cactus. BTW this was when I was reading you blog about cactus pads and cactus pears and was trying to save my cactus for such treats. I never learned to prepare them correctly and decided to just buy from the local market.
    Again, am really happy that Kelly is back and home and made it up all those stairs. Those stairs must keep you both very fit.
    Blessings to you both.

  2. I am so happy she is home, but, I suspect, not as happy as the two of you are to be reunited. Those 30 steps would be impossible for me on a good day.

  3. Wohoo! Slow and steady, Kelly.

    My Mexican sweetheart was fascinated by this video. He knew the insects but didn’t know they were used for dye.

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