This Easter, skip the unnaturally bright, chemical laden egg dye kits and opt for something kinder to the earth. Not only is going au naturale with your egg dying nicer to the environment, it’s fun, educational and naturally-colored eggs are so pretty they’re worth it even if you don’t have kids. Making your own dyes does take a little longer, but the results are worth it.
There are two basic approaches to natural egg dying, hot or cold. While the hot method offers faster results, it also tends to yield over-cooked (but still edible) eggs. Pick your preferred method and have some fun.
The Cold Method
Use hard boiled eggs that have been allowed to completely cool. Mix dye (some require boiling first – allow to cool before use). Place eggs in bowls and cover with strained dye and 2 to 3 teaspoons of white vinegar per cup of liquid; refrigerate for several hours, or overnight for the deepest colors. Remove eggs from dye and allow to air dry.
The Hot Method
Use room-temperature, uncooked eggs. Place eggs in a large saucepan, cover with water slightly warmer than the eggs, add a tablespoon or two of vinegar and the dye materials. Bring the water to a gentle boil, reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes. For soft colors, immediately run the eggs under cool tap water (this will also prevent overcooking). For deeper colors, turn off the heat and leave the eggs in the dye bath for up to two hours (the eggs will be overcooked, but still edible). For even deeper colors, transfer the eggs and their dye bath to the refrigerator overnight. Remove eggs from the dye and allow to air dry.
Once your eggs are dyed and dried, if you want them to have a bit of luster, dab a tiny drop of vegetable oil on the egg and polish with a soft cloth.
For a truly grown up version, affix bits of leaf or flowers to your egg prior to dying. Use small, soft flowers and leaves that have crisp outlines for the best results. Use a bit of egg white mixed with water to “glue” the greenery in place, then wrap the whole egg (greenery and all) in a square of cheesecloth (or a bit of clean nylon stocking) and dye as before. Rinse the egg before unwrapping. Take a look!
The natural world is unpredictable, so plants may produce some unexpected colors and intensity will vary. Start with white eggs for the brightest colors. For fresh flowers, greens, vegetable peelings or berries, use 2 cups of material per quart of water. For dried flowers and leaves, use 2 tablespoons of material per cup of water. For ground spices, use 2 teaspoons per cup of water. Remember to use only edible plants (use rhubarb stalks, but not the leaves). Note, some dyes only work when boiled to release their color. For the cold method, boil the dye then let it cool and strain it; for the boiled method, you can add the dye materials as you cook the eggs, or for a more intense color, boil the dye, let it cool and use it (unstrained) to cook the eggs. Be cautious if using chili powder or other spicy things in the boil method – the steam can be very irritating. Experiment and have fun – try different herbs, vegetables, or even rose petals. This is a list of commonly used dyes and their colors.
|Blue||Blueberries, red cabbage leaves (boiled)|
|Brown/Beige||Coffee, black walnut shells (boiled), black tea|
|Brown/Gold||Dill seeds (boiled)|
|Brown/Orange||Chili Powder (boiled), carrots, paprika (boiled), onion skins (boiled)|
|Gold/Yellow||Turmeric (boiled), saffron, orange or lemon peels (boiled), carrot tops (boiled), chamomile tea, celery seed (boiled)|
|Green||Spinach leaves (boiled)|
|Pink/Red||Cranberries (or juice), raspberries, pickled beet juice|
|Purples||Beet root, purple grape juice, blackberries, red wine, red onion skins (boiled)|