Archives: Naturally Dyed Easter Eggs

I have fond memories from dying eggs as a child.  I liked seeing the bright colors and dipping each egg carefully in several colors to get perfect stripes of color.  I liked the smell of the vinegar in the dye and still get a tinge of nostalgia any time I open a bottle.

I haven’t dyed eggs in years, but decided to give it a shot this year.  As a kid we always used the boxes from the drug store with the little tablets, but this time around, I wanted to give natural dyes a try.

There are lots of reasons you might opt for all natural dyes: it’s probably better for the earth (especially if you compost your dye materials), it can be cheaper (if you have some of the materials already on hand), to reduce your carbon footprint (if you’re buying local, instead of the dye kits produced overseas).  To me, it just sounded like fun.

Many different plants, herbs and spices can be used as a natural dye.  The basic process is to extract the dye from the plant (in this case, by boiling it in water) and then combining it with a mordant (a couple of teaspoons of Alum, a mineral compound found in the baking aisle at your grocery store) to make the color adhere to whatever it is you’re dying.

I used: beets, red cabbage, yellow onion skins, blueberries, raspberries, green tea, spinach, curry and paprika.  I hard boiled my eggs ahead of time, and used both white and brown eggs.

Remember, you’re working with dye, so protect your clothes and countertops.  Use a pot that that you wouldn’t mind throwing out, if necessary.

Researching online, there were a few different techniques, but this is what I did:

  1. Bring a few cups of water to a boil.
  2. Add whatever it is you’re dying, plus a couple teaspoons of Alum.
  3. Reduce heat slightly, and boil for 30 minutes.
  4. Place eggs plus a couple of tablespoons of vinegar into a tall glass.
  5. Strain the dye into the glass, and let set.

There were a few changes here and there:  for the beets, I just placed the eggs in the beet juice plus a little alum and vinegar.  I did the same for the green tea.  When working with the onion skins, avoid the alum, as it will cause a chemical reaction.

Since I have the patience of a five year old (no, really.), I only let mine set for a couple of hours.  The tutorials that I read said that the eggs could set for up to eight hours.  If you plan to eat your eggs, you’ll want to be careful how long you let your eggs soak.

The spices (paprika and curry) gave me the most vibrant colors.  The spinach and green tea didn’t do much at all.  The berries and cabbage also gave nice results.

Overall, it was a fun experiment, and I even learned a thing or two.  The next thing I’ll have to learn, of course, is how to love an egg salad sandwich.

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