Related Article: About Eggs
Before you pick up the conventional Easter egg dye kit at the supermarket this year, consider going au natural and using natural and organic fruit and vegetable dyes! Here’s why: Many food colorings contain color additives such as Red No. 3 and Yellow No. 5, which, according to a 1983 study by the FDA, were found to cause tumors (Red No. 3) and hives (Yellow No. 5).
Dyeing eggs the natural way gives you the opportunity to spend more time with your family, teaching kids to use alternative project methods that are healthier for them and the environment. This project may be time consuming, but if you consider the fun you will have experimenting with the relationship between the dye ingredient and color result, it will be well worth the time and effort—and, produce materials can be composted (another wonderful educational experience for kids!) to boot.
Notes Before Starting
Naturally dyed eggs will take longer to absorb color than conventionally dyed eggs. You should also be aware that dye ingredients may infuse the egg with their taste. Please note that hard-boiled eggs should be kept refrigerated until put out for a hunt or display and eaten within two hours of display time or the hunt.
There are two methods for dyeing hard-boiled or hand-blown eggs, the hot method (Method 1) and the cold method (Method 2). Method 2 is great for kids who want to do the dyeing themselves. You can also prepare the dyes for Method 2 in advance to save time.
Natural Dye Possibilities
You do not need to buy ingredients specifically for this project… This is a great way to clear your refrigerator of those questionable items you might otherwise feel guilty throwing out as they can serve admirably as natural coloring agents. Using frozen or canned ingredients can be more economical if you don’t plan on snacking as you go! In general, use up to 4 cups for vegetable solids and 3–4 tablespoons for spices per quart. Fruits should be mashed up. Experiment with quantities as you go.
- Red—Red onion skins (more than for purple), cherries
- Orange—Yellow onion skins, chili powder (for a brownish orange)
- Yellow—Turmeric, orange peel, lemon peel, carrot tops, cumin
- Blue—Red cabbage, canned blueberries
- Purple—Red onion skins,
- Pink—Beets, red grape juice, cranberry juice, frozen raspberries
- Brown—Strong brewed coffee
- About one dozen whitish eggs (depending on how many you want to dye—be sure to include extra for experimentation purposes!)
- Dye ingredients (see above)
- Large, nonaluminum pan for boiling ingredients and eggs
- Wax crayons and rubber bands for designs prior to dyeing
- 2 tablespoons white vinegar per quart of water
- Rubber gloves to avoid having Easter egg-colored hands!
- Slotted spoon for handling the eggs in hot water
- Egg carton(s) for drying
- Recycled paper towels or cloth towels
- Vegetable oil (optional)
Place eggs in a single layer in a large, nonaluminum pan. Add the dyeing ingredient of your choice—it’s best not to mix until you are comfortable with experimenting. Cover the eggs and other dyeing “agent(s)” with one inch of water. Add 2 tablespoons of white vinegar per quart to help the color adhere to the egg, and bring to a boil. Next, simmer for 20–30 minutes or until the desired shade is achieved. If you cook the eggs longer than 15 minutes, they will become rather tough.
The cold method is the same as the hot method with the following exception. Once ingredients have simmered 20–30 minutes (depending on desired shade), lift or strain the ingredients out of the water and allow the water to cool to room temperature though you may wish to try keeping the ingredients in the colored water to give the egg more texture as the dye will become concentrated in areas where the vegetable touches the egg. Submerge the eggs until the desired color is achieved. You may keep the eggs in the solution overnight as long as it is refrigerated.
The longer the egg stays in the dye, hot or cold, the deeper the hue will be. Using vinegar will also help the color deepen. (If time is short, you can use fresh and frozen berries as “paints,” too—simply crush the berries against dry, boiled eggs!)
Once satisfied with your creation, place the eggs in an egg carton to dry. If you like, rub vegetable or mineral oil onto the dried egg to create an attractive sheen. Don’t forget to document your successes for next year!