So its that time of year and while I don’t celebrate Easter in the religious sense, I think it’s fun to partake in the “social holiday” and it certainly gives me an excuse to enjoy those sugary treats that are only available once a year (hi – cadbury mini eggs anyone?) One thing that is certainly popular is dying Easter eggs and many people reach for the artificial colors/kits they sell in the stores. Although I haven’t colored eggs in years, I decided to try the natural route using common household ingredients that are far better on the environment, costs very little and produces beautiful natural hues.
- Boil your eggs – (the method I use is to put all eggs into a pan with just enough water to cover them by an inch, bring to a roiling boil, then turn off burner, put a tight lid on and leave for 10 minutes undisturbed; when time is up, put eggs in a very cold ice bath for 10 more minutes; this results in beautiful eggs that are easy to peel and have no unsightly coloring *note, you’re supposed to wait until eggs are room temp before starting the process – I was too impatient and some cracks in my eggs were the result, so best to wait it out!)
- Prep your natural dyes - while the eggs are prepping, prepare your dyes – have lots of little containers around (I used small mason jars, old salsa jars, measuring glasses, etc.
- Liquids – if you are using any liquids below, I recommend heating them up to a boil, transfer to a glass container (to free up your pan), add 2 tsp. of vinegar and drop your egg in
- Solids – for any solids that you are using, chop up dry ingredients, add enough water to cover solids and boil for 20 minutes; mash ingredients to extrude as much color out as possible and strain; transfer to glass container, add 2 tsp. of vinegar and drop in egg (for spices I suggest bringing 2 cups of water to boil with 2 tbsp. of spice added in, then follow rest of direction with vinegar, etc.)
- Frozen – with frozen berries, for example, add enough water to cover and bring to a boil (I would imagine that with frozen juice concentrates that you could just boil it without adding water), transfer to glass, add 2 tsp. vinegar and then drop eggs in
- Soak – let eggs soak a minimum of 30 minutes, and upwards of a couple hours depending on preference for depth of color (and keep in mind, these will look more like natural Easter eggs – earthy, soft and muted, so don’t expect the harsh color that comes from artificial food dye or kits); if you plan to eat the eggs, then you should move your glass containers into the fridge once the dye has cooled off (usually after the inital 30 minutes) – it still works in the fridge. You can also double-dip; that is, take out one egg after 30 minutes and put a second egg and let it remain in the dye for 2 hours, for example – the change is fascinating. My early colors were pale and light; the later ones deep and earthy.
- Enjoy! – I find the best way to enjoy a hard-boiled egg is to crack the egg all the way around, then roll it between your hands; this loosens up the shells and makes it easy to peel
Here are the different items you can use (keep in mind that I haven’t tried all these, so it may be trial and error for you, but I put an asterisk next to what I did use; my results will be noted at the bottom):
- berry juice or frozen berries (strawberry, raspberry, cranberry, pomegranate) *
- fresh grated red beets (said to produce the strongest red colors)
- Red Zinger tea *
- yellow/brown onion skins
- cooked carrots
- paprika *
- chili powder *
- calendula/pot marigolds
- ground turmeric *
- ground cumin
- green tea *
- carrot tops
- chamomile tea
- spinach *
- liquid chlorophyll *
- turmeric and items from the blue category (red cabbage or blueberry juice) *
- blueberry juice concentrate
- red cabbage (yes, you read right and said to make the most beautiful Robin’s-egg blue color)
- grape juice
- red wine *
- red onion skins
Brown: (I know you can get these at the store normally, but these produce a nice light tan color that goes well with muted pastel colors)
- coffee *
- black tea
Wow, this was fun and the results were great, though some things didn’t work at all while others worked surprisingly well – I just experimented a lot. I had trouble with reds (if I only had beets in the house!); I tried pom juice and Zinger tea to no avail and didn’t have any individual frozen berries, so I used frozen mixed berries which still yielded a lovely bluish-purple!
For orange, I used a combo of paprika and chili powder and had a muted orange (more like tan). However, my chili powder is more brown (heavy with cumin) but I’ve seen bright red chili powder out there and read that it produces a gorgeous orange-colored egg.
Yellow was smashing. I had straight up turmeric and that really did the trick.
For green I tried two ways. I did the spinach mixed with chlorophyll – that provided a spotted, very muted green; for the bright green – stay tuned.
I didn’t have anything for blue, so I skipped it although I wish I had red cabbage in the house, although the mixed berries did make a lovely bluish-purple egg!
Purple results were great – I left one egg in the mixed berries mixture for longer than the bluish one listed above and it definitely turned more purple. Red wine also did the trick once I heated it (it did nothing cold but once I brought it to a boil, then the egg turned a beautiful dark purple).
Now, with the leftover turmeric, I mixed in the leftover berry. Although the liquid concoction looked a deep orange, my egg came out a beautiful bright green after only 15 minutes! I left one egg in the same mixture for over an hour in the fridge and it came out an olive green! Remember your primary colors – if you can make red/yellow/blue, then you can make the rest in case you’re struggling with ingredients on hand: red and yellow make orange; yellow and blue make green; blue and red make purple…
This is fun, you oughta try it!