by Marilyn Quinn
Since pagan times, the ancient tradition of decorating eggs in the spring has symbolized renewed life. At my house, I color eggs around Easter time–which often lands in the month of April. And while it would be a lot easier to use a store-bought Easter egg dye kit, I love the challenges that come with using natural organic dyes. Plus, I prefer the subtle earthy tones of the organic dyes to the neon candy-colored outcome. The rustic colors satisfy my crafty and creative side. And so I set aside a morning, every year, for egg dying—even though my son is grown and long gone from home.
So if you’re like me and prefer the organic technique over the packaged version, here’s a quick and dirty (yes, do plan on using an apron) how-to:
Ingredients for the coloring baths:
· Pink - fresh chopped red beets (these have to be fresh; canned beets will produce wimpy colors)
· Yellow brown - yellow onion skins
· Robin's egg blue - chopped red cabbage
· Gold - ground turmeric
· Light brown - coffee grounds
· Light pink - red onion skins
** Note: This method is not an exact science. Don't worry about specific quantities, but do err on the side of more (rather than less) coloring ingredients when creating the dyes.
Step 1: CAREFULLY fancy up your eggs by drawing designs with crayons or wax on the eggshells before dyeing. To create stripes, place rubber bands around the eggs. You can also leave some plain.
Step 2: Put each dye ingredient in its own pan and pour in enough water to generously cover 2 to 3 eggs. Add a few tablespoons of white vinegar to the mixes.
Step 3: Place the eggs in the dye baths and bring them to a boil. Simmer gently for about 20 minutes to cook the egg thoroughly.
Step 4: Transfer the eggs and liquids to bowls and leave them in the fridge overnight, letting the colors deepen. The longer the eggs are in the dye bath, the better the colors. This is especially important for making blue eggs. The resulting purplish water from the boiled red cabbage will stain the eggs a beautiful blue once it sits (there is some sort of chemistry lesson here, but I'm not sure how it works).
The dyed eggs may come out mottled, streaky, or blotched. They are somewhat unpredictable and I love that!
Once dry, I use a dab of glue to encircle some of my colored eggs with ribbons. You can also rub the dyed eggs with cooking oil to give them a glossy shine.
Keep the hard boiled eggs in the refrigerator until it is time to hide them or give them away. A basket of organically dyed eggs makes a perfect centerpiece for an Easter breakfast and will give people plenty to talk about!
Marilyn Quinn lives on two wooded acres outside of Wilson, Wyoming where moose, flying squirrels, and fox frequently visit her yard.