Easter au natura: Fill your basket with colors of the rainbow
Why use chemicals to dye your Easter eggs when natural ingredients will do the trick?
Tall, wide-mouth Mason jars are perfect for dyeing two or three eggs at a time. CONTRIBUTED PHOTOS
Lisa Steele cozies up with one of her hens.
Easter means it’s time to get creative with those boring white eggs. While children have fun coloring them to adorn their baskets, do you know what types of chemicals those dyes contain? Why add something so artificial to one of the most naturally made foods we eat?
Dyeing eggs at Easter is a time-honored tradition in many cultures. You can make it even more natural and creative when you use foods and spices from your kitchen and pantry to color the eggs.
For ideas on how your children can enjoy this memorable Easter activity in a safe, healthy way, look to the expert who naturally raises the chickens that came before those eggs. TV host, author and founder of Fresh Eggs Daily, Lisa Steele shares her DIY tips for natural Easter egg dyes.
Here are Steele’s recommendations for natural colors and what to use for them:
• Blue: Purple cabbage
• Green: Purple cabbage and turmeric
• Orange: Yellow onion
• Purple/blue: Blueberries
• Pale lavender: Violets
• Pale Green: Spinach
• Rose pink: Beet juice
• Pale Blue: Beet tops/greens
• Yellow: Turmeric
• Pale orange: Carrots
To color your eggs, start by boiling water and pour about two teaspoons of white vinegar in mugs. Next you’ll add the ingredients you’re using to dye the eggs, placing an egg in each mug and cover with the boiling water.
Once each egg is submerged in the liquid, stir occasionally. Let the liquid cool to room temperature (about 2 hours). You can refrigerate overnight for a more vibrant color or remove the eggs when you have achieved the color you desire and let dry completely. Once dry, Steele recommends rubbing cooking oil onto the surface of each egg with a cotton ball to make those eggshells shine.
If you have a source, don’t forget those beautiful blue, green and brown eggs already naturally colorful from the different breeds of chickens that produce them.
You can also achieve gorgeous, vibrant hues from natural ingredients. There’s no need to use commercial dyes or food coloring. It’s healthier for your kids and chickens (see below), and more economical to use vegetable peels and skins, especially if you grow your own veggies. (Editor’s note: I save the papery onion skins throughout the year, and I also take the outer leaves from red cabbage and pop them in the freezer until I’m ready to color eggs. This way I’m not scrambling to find enough natural materials when I need them.)
You can use light-brown eggs for this project. You will get brighter colors using white eggs. Steele loves using her white duck eggs to make extra-large Easter eggs.
“Over the years I’ve tried lots of different vegetables and spices to dye eggs,” Steele writes on her blog. “Some definitely work better than others — for example spinach, cranberry juice, red wine, coffee and paprika yield less than stellar results — so I’ve pretty much narrowed it down to my six absolute favorite dyes for a basket full of truly beautiful eggs.”
But if you’re so inclined, she said you can have a lot of fun by experimenting with different kinds of vegetable peels and scraps.
But it really is fun to experiment with all different kinds of vegetable trimmings and scraps.
For each batch
Gather your equipment and ingredients before you start. You’ll need the following:
3 hard cooked eggs
4 cups water
2 cups of dye ingredients
2 tablespoons white vinegar
Fine mesh strainer
Wide mouth Mason jar (the taller versions)
Coconut oil or olive oil
Egg carton to set eggs in while they dry
Pour the water in the saucepan, then add your dye ingredients. Bring to a boil and simmer for 20-30 minutes until water changes color. Remove the pot from the heat, add the vinegar and let sit until cool. The vinegar will allow the color to adhere better to the eggshell, so don’t skip this step.
Meanwhile, gently put three eggs into the Mason jar. Strain the solids out of the dye, pouring the liquid over the eggs. Refrigerate overnight, then use a spoon to carefully remove each egg from the dye one at a time.
Set each egg into a separate section of an egg carton and allow to dry completely. Then gently wipe the surface of the eggs with a bit of oil for a subtle shine.
You can reuse each jar of dye for another batch of eggs. Just put three more eggs into the jar and pop them back into the refrigerator. It’s fun to experiment taking the eggs out at various intervals for varying shades of color.
Here are Steele’s top six picks for the best natural dyes for bright, bold colored eggs.
• Chopped beets: Bright pink
• Yellow onion skins: Bright orange
• Turmeric: Bright yellow
• Purple cabbage and turmeric: Bright green
• Purple cabbage: Bright blue
• Blueberries: Purple
Use two cups of which ever veggie you’re using and 2 tablespoons of turmeric in the shades that call for the spice.
Eggs can be stored in the refrigerator for up to a week before being eaten.
And if you have chickens, feel free to share the eggshells with them. Steele says they love the strained solids as well (except for the onion skins). She also gives her chickens the vinegar water dyes when she’s finished as well.
Lisa Steele is a fifth generation chicken keeper. A regular contributor to several publications, as well as HGTVGardens.com and BHG.com, Steele has become the most trusted voice in natural chicken keeping.
For more ideas and information, visit www.fresheggsdaily.com.