Saturday, 17 July 2010
Making 'Paper' from Vegetables
Next, choose your vegetables. I have been most successful with courgette, carrot (sliced or grated), onions and red cabbage (good but smelly!). Leeks and celery can work but are a bit temperamental. I tried a yellow pepper which didn’t work at all, although I think it might if I skinned it first… or sliced it into strips… Anything too watery probably won’t work and shiny skins like that on the pepper are a problem. But there are lots of veggies I haven’t tried yet which will probably work really well – so experiment!
Step 1 : Slice your chosen vegetable whichever way you want. The slices do not need to be particularly thin or even – in fact, slices which are too thin will make your resulting paper terribly fragile. Boil the slices until they are just soft but not disintegrating – how long depends on the vegetable and the thickness of the slices – 3-5mins is about right for most things. Drain.
Step 2 : Lay a cloth on top of a pad of newspaper, on top of a board. Arrange your drained vegetable slices on the cloth, overlapping the slices by about 5mm. You can see from the photograph that the courgette slices were really quite thick. I was making lots of little separate pieces here so I haven't overlapped them much.
Lay another cloth on top and another pad of newspaper on top of that. If you have more vegetable slices you can lay another cloth on top and repeat, topping off with a last layer of newspaper and another pressing board. Weight it all down with a stack of books or whatever else you have to hand.
Step 3 : The vegetables are very wet at this stage, so after an hour or so you will need to replace all the newspaper with dry newspaper. This is important because if you don’t get rid of the moisture your veg will go mouldy before it dries. You can now leave your vegetables pressing for a few hours or overnight.
Step 4 : Your vegetables should be paper thin by now, sticking together and beginning to dry out. Renew the cloths by carefully peeling the top cloth off and replacing with a clean one. Flip the cloth-veg-cloth sandwich over and carefully peel off and replace the other cloth. If you don’t replace the cloths at this stage you may find your veg paper gets irretrievably stuck to them. Restack with fresh newspaper between the pressing boards.
Repeat step 4 a couple of times a day until your vegetable paper is dry. This can take up to 3 or 4 days depending on the moisture content and thickness of the vegetables, how heavy the weights are, and so on.
And then you’re done! The vegetable paper can be left as it is, or coated with a sealant such as shellac or acrylic wax. I found the acrylic wax made the otherwise quite brittle paper really flexible, but also very shiny, which I didn’t like so much. Shellac is less shiny and worked really well on the red cabbage but would discolour a paler vegetable. I have no idea how long the paper will last or how long it will keep its colour - I will keep you updated.
So, have fun experimenting, and if you make some vegetable paper, send me a picture, I'd love to see!