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Natural Egg-Dyeing


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Experiment with natural pigments you already have at home

With celebrations of Ostara behind us, Spring is officially in the air, and it’s a perfect time to dye eggs.  Opting away from artificial food dyes, I wanted to experiment with natural pigments derived from different food I have around the house. With a rambunctious, almost-3 year old as my copilot on this project, I wanted to go the natural route and still allow space to experiment and have fun. They’re happy to play with colors and I get the peace of mind knowing I’m not polluting my child with artificial dyes. Win-win.

The first thing we get to do is a fun little scavenger hunt for us to gather all the bits and pieces. I was able to ask her if she knew what each item was, and if she knew where we could find it. The ingredients list:

This was an entirely curiosity-driven experiment for me, because all the reading-up on natural dyes exposed a wide range of results from the same few common ingredients. I decided to go with ten different dye solutions derived from nine different organic ingredients.

Why, you might ask? Because sometimes you literally move something to the back burner and forget about it entirely while simultaneously making dinner and chasing after a toddler. Long story short, the first attempt to blanche the red onion skins was inadvertently reduced to caramelized onion *ehem, burnt* so I rolled with the punches and started another solution to test the results between the two different processes. Mistakes are a part of the journey as well.

I started by giving my toddler the reins on the berry mashing while I started on the cutting of the vegetables and the boiling of the spices. I highly recommend doing this at a time of day where windows can be opened providing proper ventilation of the potent, contrasting smells. The inadvertent caramelizing of the onions was by far the worst–and I am certain not everyone will encounter this same problem–but even boiling down the red onion not while burnt was pretty awful. Add Turmeric and Paprika on top of the rest of the fruity aromas, and I was overwhelmed. Ventilation is crucial.

Once all nine ingredients were pulverized and/or boiled down to derive the pigments, each one was separated to its own jar, and I added about a Tablespoon of distilled white vinegar to every 1 cup of dye. Now I am fortunate to live in an area where farm fresh eggs are easily obtainable, but they tend to have darker shells, so I wanted to compare the final results of both farm fresh and store-bought eggs with the white shell most commonly used to dye eggs.

I was boiling a dozen eggs at a time to try to batch them, so they were coming out of the ice bath, dried completely with a towel, then immediately put into the dye. It’s at this point -after dry, before dye- that you could use a white crayon to draw a design or write a word on the egg that will appear after coming out of the solution. We opted out this time for aesthetics, but next time will give this a try.

I used a spoon to gently drop each egg into the dye, but found my helper did better by placing the egg inside a whisk to make an easy handle for little hands to be able to get the eggs in and out. It didn’t take long to discover that patience is required, however, and we went back through after the fun of dipping wore off, and kept the first two dozen eggs -one farm fresh and one store bought- in for one hour. The third batch with the white shell was left in the solution for over seven hours and there was a remarkable contrast between the vibrancy of the colors from the eggs that only say for one hour.

Like most things, now that I have this first experiment under my belt, there are certainly parts I would improve upon the next time we do this, but will most definitely do this whole experience again. It is perhaps more time consuming than is practical for all, myself included, but hearing the little squeals of excitement every time they found another egg that they made, was worth every minute.

P.S. Another natural dye option is this beautiful Egg Coloring Kit by Eco-Kids…a fun project ANY time of year!


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