Dig It! Tinting Easter Eggs with Homemade Dyes
by Sage & Snow Garden Club
March 7, 2010
Generations ago, Easter eggs were dyed not by coloring purchased in a box at a store but by gathering local botanical materials. Many earth-toned colors can be made by using twigs and bark from fallen trees, berries, fruits, vegetables and flowers. Gathering and preparing these botanical dyes can be a wonderful springtime activity for the entire family.
HOW TO BEGIN - Take a tour of your yard or a hike in the foothills to gather materials. You may even want to check your kitchen for spices. Pre-boil eggs and cool before dyeing. Just before dyeing your eggs, you may want to use crayons to write your name or make designs on the egg before dying. The area marked with the crayon will not have dye on it. White crayons work particularly well.
A BASIC RECIPE - Use enamel, glass or stainless steel saucepans for each color. Put botanical materials in each saucepan and boil for approximately 15 minutes before dyeing eggs. Botanical material can be strained out of saucepans for more uniform coloring or left in the saucepan for a mottled look. After boiling the botanical materials, white vinegar is added to each saucepan to help the dye adhere to and permeate the egg shell. As a general rule, use 1 tablespoon of white vinegar to 2 cups of water.
FROM THE PRIMARY COLORS, A RAINBOW CAN BE MADE
– For RED, boil 2 cups of grated beets in 2 cups of water. Mix in 1 tablespoon of white vinegar before dyeing eggs. Variation: make a strong tea using "Red Zinger" tea bags.
– For YELLOW/GOLD, boil 3 handfuls of brown and yellow onion skins in 2-3 cups of water. Mix in1 tablespoon white vinegar before dyeing eggs. Variation: make a strong chamomile tea, 2-3 tablespoons of ground turmeric, 2-3 cups of Dandelion heads
– For BLUE boil about 1 lb. of frozen blueberries in 2 cups of water. Mix in1 tablespoon white vinegar before dyeing eggs. Variation: use chopped, red cabbage leaves
To make secondary colors, set out 3 bowls. Add red and yellow to make orange, yellow and blue to make green, and blue and red to make violet.
For the deepest colors, soak eggs in the dye for a few hours. If you plan to eat your eggs later, make sure eggs are kept in the refrigerator while soaking in the dye. To add more texture to your colored egg, arrange fresh leaves, flowers, or flower petals right after dyeing the egg then wrap gently in cheesecloth. Unwrap cheesecloth when dry.
Experiment! Discovering what materials and quantities work well is part of the fun. Encourage children to help with the decision-making process. For future reference, keep track of what materials worked and what didn’t work.