To celebrate the First Day of Spring we dyed eggs. Naturally. In other words, we used plants to make the dye rather than stain our beautiful eggs with the harsh, chemical-filled colors that “food” coloring will produce.
Most people think of coloring eggs as an Easter tradition and I have fond memories of Easter Eves spent squeezing around the table with my cousins coloring Easter Eggs, or shrinking those creepy pre-decorated plastic sleeves around them. Colored eggs, however, go much further back than Christ—in fact, I went to Church every Sunday for most of my childhood and I don’t remember a single reference to eggs, colored or otherwise, in the Easter Story.
The egg part of Easter (along with rabbits, little chicks, and the name Easter) comes from the Old English or Germanic goddess Ostara or Eostre. She is the Goddess of Spring, the Dawn, and the East. She is the Goddess of Resurrection and Rebirth. She is the Maiden aspect of the Triple Goddess. She is also the Goddess of Fertility and is honored at the Spring Equinox; the holiday, in Pagan terms, is usually called Ostara. As eggs are also a symbol of Fertility and Life, they are dyed to honor her.
There is also a story about how the goddess Ostara found a bird dying of the cold and turned him into a rabbit to keep him warm. She gave him the ability to lay eggs one day out of the year—on the Spring Equinox. (The irreverent Witch in me wonders if they might have been chocolate, too!)
Even when it’s snowing (which it was, great, swirling WINTER snowflakes, I might add), Ostara must be celebrated… So out came the eggs, the dyes, and almost enough patience for the project.
I had been reading about how to dye eggs naturally (here and here) and thought—It will be great, right?
Well it was. Sort of.
I mean, I didn’t stain the table with beet juice… and I’m sure the grout will be white again someday. (Or at least grey… it hasn’t been properly white since about a week after we tiled the counters.)
During the hard boiling phase of the operation, a bunch of my eggs cracked. (Apparently this is the way to hard boil eggs. Who knew?) I dyed them anyway, and have labeled the cracks “embellishments.”
A few of my dyes didn’t work. At all.
And a bunch more didn’t exactly turn out beautiful. Interesting, sure, but not beautiful.
For those of you who read all about my Ice Marbles, or for those of you who know me in person, this probably doesn’t surprise you. Oddly enough, it shocked me. It shocks me Every. Single. Time. one of my little domestic bliss adventures goes awry.
Natural Egg Dyes that Worked
Yellow Onion Skins — Simmer the skins of several yellow onions in 2 cups of water for about 15 minutes. Cool to room temperature and add 2 tablespoons of white vinegar. Soak hard boiled egg for a couple of hours. Both the white eggs and brown eggs turned out to be a rich, swirly brown, and I couldn’t tell them apart.
Beets — Cut up two smallish beets (I left the skins on) and simmer in 2 cups of water for about 15 minutes. Cool to room temperature and add 2 tablespoons of white vinegar. Soak hard boiled egg for a couple of hours. Both the white eggs and the brown eggs turned out pretty… or maybe interesting. The brown egg was darker and I don’t have any idea why they were speckled.
Blueberries — Half a cup of frozen blueberries (thawed and then crushed) plus 1 cup of boiling water. (It was suggested to use blueberry juice or cranberry juice instead of water, but I didn’t have any.) Cool to room temperature and add 2 tablespoons of white vinegar. Soak hard boiled egg for a couple of hours. The white egg turned out bluish and speckled, the brown egg turned out bluish-gray and less speckled.
Curry — Pour 1 ½ cups of boiling water over 2 tablespoons curry powder. (I meant to use turmeric, but we were out!) Cool to room temperature and add 2 tablespoons of white vinegar. Soak hard boiled egg for a couple of hours. The white egg turned out a dark, orange-yellow, the brown egg stayed more-or-less brown, with a few specks of undissolved spice on it. The eggs smelled quite a lot like curry, but they didn’t taste like curry at all.
Natural Egg Dyes that Didn’t Work
Cayenne Pepper – Prepared the same way as the curry, but barely stained the white egg pink and didn’t change the color on the brown egg, except for leaving specks of undissolved cayenne on it. Seems like a waste of spice to me.
Grated Carrot – Prepared the same as the beets and onion skins. Didn’t change the color of the eggs at all.
Coffee Grounds – I used used espresso grounds and, despite the fact that they were what stained my grout a nice brownish-black color, they didn’t color the eggs at all.
The adventure left a lot of room for improvement and some more experimentation… or,
perhaps, just direction-following, but this is the way we will be dying eggs
from now on. The earthy colors are growing on me, and I find that I am quite in
love with the speckles that came out on the beet-dyed eggs. (I only wish I knew
why they were there!) And none of my eggs are laced with poison… er… the
chemicals in the so-called “food” coloring.
The kids were fascinated, they might have learned something, and they had fun celebrating the First Day of Spring, which really was the point of the exercise.
We have done natural dying of eggs before and to make it a little more exciting, we wrote or drew on the eggs first with a white crayon. This way the girls got excited when they saw their artwork even if the dye wasn’t all that wonderful.
That’s a good idea! I thought about putting tape on the eggs to leave white spots, but I forgot all about crayons.
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