Natural Dyes for Decorating Easter Eggs
April brings spring weather, longer days, an array of colors from blooming plants, and many outdoor activities. I really enjoy the weather and opportunities to get outside and be more active. It is also a time to celebrate my birthday and anniversary during the later days of the month. One of the traditions that I most look forward to during April involves eggs.
Decorating eggs during the spring season is a tradition that dates back to the earliest civilizations. Now, Easter is traditionally the time families enjoy embellishing eggs with festive colors. Most often, commercial dyes are used to color eggs; however, people from earlier times used natural dyes from edible food materials commonly available today. Some examples include: nuts, berries, vegetables, spices, etc.
This year I encourage you to try “going back to nature” with eggs dyed naturally. This can be a fun activity for your family and is economical. Remember to use only edible ingredients that are food safe. Dyeing eggs with these ingredients is an art and not an exact science. You can have fun with it and experiment with different materials and colors. You may be surprised with the palate of beautiful colors you create!
Some sources for natural dye ingredients are below, with many other possibilities available. Use your own judgment about the amount of each dye ingredient to use, these are only estimated amounts.
Obtain colors using the following amounts per quart of water:
Pinkish Red= 4 cups of shredded
Orange = 4 cups of yellow onion skins
Pale Green = 4 cups of spinach leaves
Blue = 4 cups of red cabbage leaves shredded
The following use in place of water:
Beige to Brown = Strong brewed coffee
Grey/Purple/Red hues = Grape, cranberry, pomegranate, or beet juice
Steps to dyeing eggs naturally:
1. Begin with hard-cooked eggs.
2 Choose a dye ingredient (from list above or select your own)
3. Place in a pan large enough for water to be 1-inch about the dye ingredient.
4. Bring water to a boil. Reduce the heat. Simmer for 15 minutes or until desired color. (during the dying process the eggs will not get as dark as the color of the water)
5. Remove pan from heat; strain with a fine strainer into a liquid measuring cup.
6. Add 2-3 teaspoons of white vinegar for each cup of strained liquid dye.
7. Pour the mixture into a container that is deep enough to completely cover the eggs.
8. Place the eggs into the dye water until desired color is achieved. Stir to allow the color to reach all the shell parts evenly.
9. Remove eggs from dye, allow drying.
Naturally dyed eggs will have a dull finish. Rub with vegetable oil for a more shiny appearance. Refrigerate immediately. Storing the eggs properly is very important. Use the following safety tips for eggs:
1. Always wash hands before and after handling eggs
2. Hard cool the eggs, dye, and refrigerate within two hours (do not leave outside of the refrigerator)
3. Use food-safe natural or commercial dyes.
4. Eggs that are used as decorations and not refrigerated should not be eaten.
If you are planning an Easter Egg hunt, I suggest using the plastic eggs, so you can ensure your eggs are safe for eating. If you do hide eggs the hunt should be within 2 hours or less, not using eggs with cracks. Keeping food safe should be the priority. Even if you do not celebrate Easter, dyeing eggs naturally is a great family activity. You are also free to be creative and come up with your own combinations. I would be interested in hearing from you about your adventures in natural dyes.
Eggs are also a great nutritional food. They are a wonderful source of protein, unsaturated fatty acids, vitamins and minerals. A large egg has approximately 75 calories.
For more information on nutrition or other topics please contact your local Cooperative Extension. For nutrition sessions in Spanish in Chatham County: Carmen Martinez, firstname.lastname@example.org or 912.652.7994; Appling and Wayne Counties contact: Fani Orellana, email@example.com or 912.367.8130.