Saturday, April 16, 2011

Natural Easter Egg Dye

By Danelle Frisbie © 2010

If your family is dying eggs this Easter, you may wish to try out a natural method of egg coloring. Long before the 88-cent variety was available in WalMarts across the country, dyes made of natural materials (plants, berries, nuts, teas, etc.) were used to dye all sorts of items in a number of ways. Growing up, my siblings and I always loved to experiment with the produce Mom helped us pull in from the garden or the store to see what new dyed creations we could come up with.

While everyone has their favorite method, here is one idea for trying out your hand at some natural egg dyes this season (or any time you and the kids feel like having a little fun).

Color Ingredients:
Note: Fresh and frozen produce will produce more vivid colors than canned produce which has already been sitting in water and losing some of its dying potential

BLUE
Canned Blueberries
Red Cabbage Leaves (boiled)
Purple Grape Juice

GREEN
Spinach Leaves (boiled)
Liquid Chlorophyll

ORANGE
Yellow Onion Skins (boiled)
Carrots
Paprika

RED
Lots of Red Onions Skins (boiled)
Pomegranate juice
Canned Cherries (with syrup)
Raspberries

YELLOW
Orange or Lemon Peels (boiled)
Carrot Tops (boiled)
Chamomile Tea
Celery Seed (boiled)
Green tea
Ground Cumin (boiled)
Ground Turmeric (boiled) or Saffron

PURPLE
Violet Blossoms
Hibiscus tea
Small Quantity of Red Onions Skins (boiled)
Red Wine

PINK
Beets
Cranberries or Juice
Raspberries
Red Grape Juice
Juice from Pickled Beets

LAVENDER
Small Quantity of Purple Grape Juice
Violet Blossoms plus 2 tsp Lemon Juice
Red Zinger Tea

GREEN-YELLOW
Yellow Delicious Apple Peels (boiled)

GREY
Purple or red grape juice or beet juice

BROWN or BEIGE
Strong Coffee
Instant Coffee
Black Walnut Shells (boiled)
Black Tea

BROWN-ORANGE
Chili Powder

BROWN-GOLD
Dill Seeds

Directions For Dye:

1) Wash your hard-boiled eggs in warm soapy water to remove the oils that prohibit natural dyes from adhering as effectively to the egg shell. Be sure the eggs are cool to the touch before starting to dye.

2) Add about 1 cup of tap water per handful of your natural dye item into a stove top pan for boiling. The water should come to 1 inch above your item of dye. Use your own judgment in determining exactly how much of the item is needed. Typically 2-3 handfuls of an item will suffice to dye the water, and effectively dye your eggs. However, the more of an item you use, the darker the dye will be. The exception for this is the spices, which will not take as much.

3) Bring the water (with dye ingredients) to a boil, and then reduce heat and simmer for 15-60 minutes until the color you desire is obtained. Eggs will not dye as dark as the colored water in the pan, so typically you want the dyed water to be about 4 times darker than the eggs you are planning for.

4) Remove the pan from heat once the color is obtained.

5) Use a coffee filter or other strain if your dyed water is grainy UNLESS you like speckled eggs - in that case, leave the granules in the mix.

6) Use a measuring cup to place 1 cup of dyed water to 3 teaspoons white vinegar into a bowl or jar that you will use to dye your eggs. It is not necessary to prep all the liquid dye at this time - more can be added later. But always add 3 tsp white vinegar per 1 cup of dyed water when filling up the bowl.

Directions For Eggs:

1) With a slotted spoon (or regular spoon as we use at our house) lower the eggs into the liquid. Allow them to soak until you like the color. If you are dying in a tea or spice dye, allow it to sit overnight. The longer the egg soaks, the deeper the color. If you will be consuming the eggs, make sure long (overnight) soaks are done in the fridge! You may also wish to turn your egg once or twice while it is soaking so that a circle of light dye is not left remaining on the top (where it was not covered). Or, push the egg down into the dye and hold in place with a heavier utensil that sits on top.

2) When eggs are the color you desire, lift them out and allow to dry on a rack or drainer. An egg carton turned upside down, with the bottoms cut out, makes a nice drying rack. Many of the natural colors can rub off easily before the eggs have dried, so be careful with excess handling at this point.

Other Tips:

* If a textured look is desired, you can dab the wet egg with a sponge.

* For designs (drawing, writing your name, etc.) you can use a wax pencil or crayon before dying -- the dye will not color the portion where you used the wax and it will show through the final color.

* Fresh and frozen berries can be crushed and used as finger paints on the eggs.

* Cut some wire to fashion an egg 'dipper' to use in holding eggs 1/2 way into one dye, 1/2 way into another dye, and come out with stripes! The possibilities are endless - and they are au naturale!

* Eggs that are colored naturally have a matte finish and are not as glossy as chemical dyes. Once they are dry, rub the eggs with mineral or cooking oil if you prefer them to have a glistening sheen.


If you are coloring many eggs and only wish to have a few color selections for all of them, you can hard-boil the eggs right along with the ingredients for the dye from the first step. This is an easy (less time-consuming) process, but as most stoves only have 4 burners, you may be limited in the amount of color selection. Plus, it just isn't quite as fun for the kids (and kids at heart) as all the dipping and designing and striping and color-mixing on their eggs. :)


~ Happy Easter! ~



18 comments:

  1. We're excited to try this!

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  2. Yay! Very comprehensive. We will also be using this, printing right now. Happy Oestre and a fruitful and fortuitous Spring! ~ Lila

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  3. I'm having a LOT of trouble with the spinach dye. I boiled the water with the (fresh) spinach for over an hour, and got a thin, greeny-yellow liquid. It did NOT translate onto the eggs at all, neither by cold soaking overnight or by boiling the eggs in the dye. I used 12 oz s spinach in four cups of water, then used the vinegar when dyeing. Are there more specific proportions of spinach to water that you could suggest?

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  4. I just heard a piece on NPR yesterday how until the invention of synthetic dyes, green was the hardest color to achieve despite it being the 2nd most abundant color in nature...

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  5. I believe adding spinach powder or parsley powder helps the green to develop.

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  6. You can purchase them already green from someone who owns Aracauna ("Easter Egger") hens.

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  7. hmm... maybe you could try basil. i used a homemade fresh basil paste on my face and it took days to get all the green off, LOL. i dried the fresh basil leaves myself in a low temp oven, then pounded them with mortar & pestle and mixed with a little water. basil has a lot of oil in it as well, which is one reason i think the color sticks on skin, but that may or may not stick so much on eggs. maybe a combo of basil/parsley/spinach?

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  8. http://www.npr.org/2011/04/20/135316415/celebrating-green-as-color-as-concept-as-cause?ft=1&f=1008 - "there isn't a single plant that creates a really stable green dye"

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  9. spirulina would be my guess. stains my fingers when I get a pinch for my smoothie! :)

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  10. Spirulina is a brown/green & smells very strong. I'm trying a mix of parsley & nettles this year.

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  11. Chlorophyll, I'd bet.. Can do some serious green staining damage to everything else....

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  12. I've had trouble getting green to stick in yarn dying as well. I tried wheat grass juice powder to no avail. One might have more luck with mixing blueberries and mustard or some such thing.

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  13. my friend uses turmeric mixed with red cabbage

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  14. Angelia I had the same idea...also, if you are dying brown eggs with the red cabbage, it is more of a turquoise, so maybe you could subdue it into looking more greenish? Just an idea...

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  15. I had some trouble with the spinach as well. It looked more yellow. I'm going to try these suggestions, and if they don't work then we'll just have lots of yellow eggs!

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  16. Thanks, everyone! I really appreciate all the feedback. I was actually starting to blame our hard water...! I'll try basil next time, for sure. :)

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  17. I don't know what I did wrong, but my red cabbage dye isn't working. :(

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