When I was growing up, it was an annual tradition to dye Easter eggs, and I’ve carried the ritual into my own kids’ childhoods. When I was young, though, my mom didn’t go to the store and buy those little colored tablets that you mix with water to make the egg dye. I actually don’t, either; I always fill cups with water, add a splash of vinegar, and drip in several drops of food coloring. I recently ran across some information on making natural egg dyes, though. Whether you’re trying to avoid artificial dyes (because some coloring always gets on the white part of the egg!), or just looking for something interesting to do with the kids, it would be fun and educational to give natural colorants a try this year.
Always start with hard boiled eggs. If you haven’t done this before, you cover uncooked eggs with cold water and bring to a boil. Once the water starts boiling, set the timer for 10 minutes. When the timer goes off, quickly rinse the eggs in cool water, then place them in a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process. If hard boiled eggs are overcooked, the yolks turn a little bit greenish, but they’re still fine to eat. When the eggs have cooled, dry them off and, if desired, let the kids draw on them with white crayons. The wax will repel the dye, so you’ll end up with white designs on your eggs.
To make the dyes, use warm water and a bit of vinegar to help set the color. Immerse the eggs for a minute for muted hues, to several minutes for brighter colors. You can even leave them immersed in the dye overnight, if you put them in the fridge to keep them cool. Here’s what you can try for various colors:
Red: Frozen raspberries, red onion skins (boil these in the water, add the vinegar, and let cool), pomegranate juice, or the juice from canned beets. You can also grate fresh beets and boil.
Orange: Paprika, chili powder, or lots of chopped, boiled carrots.
Yellow: Yellow onion skins or turmeric.
Green: Spinach leaves (again, boiled first).
Blue: The juice from canned blueberries, chopped red cabbage (the acid in the vinegar turns blue when mixed with the cabbage… this is a chemistry lesson in itself).
Purple: Grape juice.
Experiment with different materials you find. Some may surprise you! Remember to use only items that are edible, unless they are for decoration only, because some will leach into the eggs. While some crushed flowers make great dyes, they can be poisonous, so don’t use them if you’re not sure!
If you experiment with natural egg dyes this year, or if you have done so in the past, tell us about your results!