Woad was grown in the Midi Toulousain in the 16th century. It made the fortune of the great Toulouse and Albi families and contributed to the splendour of the Renaissance.
The golden triangle: Toulouse - Albi - Carcassonne
In Midi-Pyrénées, which remained the only area in France where woad was produced, its cultivation even took over from the traditional growing of cereal crops in the Toulouse – Albi – Carcassonne triangle.
The great wealth that woad brought to this area gave rise to the myth of the Pays de Cocagne, which to the French still today means a land of abundance and carefree existence. The woad leaves were ground up, dried and packed into easily transportable balls, or coques, giving rise to this name Pays de Cocagne (from which we get the expression Land of Cockaigne, or land of milk and honey).
Toulouse established itself at the heart of the organised trade in woad, on the impetus of entrepreneurial merchants who formed an international network supplying the whole of Europe, from Antwerp to Bilbao. The Wars of Religion (1562-1598), and later, in the 17th century, the overwhelming competition of Indian indigo brought an end to this flourishing economy.
The 21st century: woad is back
Today, woad is back in favour thanks to the work of enthusiasts who have begun to grow it once again and make use of its various natural properties as a dye and in cosmetics. Clothing, art pastels, household paints and even bath oils and soaps: woad has brought new meaning to the blues