I can’t remember when the last time I dyed Easter eggs was. Probably at least a decade ago. But I vividly remember dyeing them as a kid, with one of those ubiquitous kits from the grocery store. This year, I’ve been playing around with natural dyes for other projects, and I decided to try dyeing Easter eggs with natural dyes. Wanting a variety of colors, I raided my produce bin and experimented. Some of the results were just as predicted, and others were a surprise even though I knew what color to expect.
When Steven asked me how I’d made each color, I made him guess before I told him. He got most of them, but was really stumped on the blue. What’s your guess on what I used for the blue dye?
Pink/red: Red beets
Blue: Red/purple cabbage
Greige: Chiogga/Candy stripe beets
As you can probably tell, these are very imperfectly-dyed eggs. The colors aren’t uniform, and they’re spotty in some places. Part of that is because I forgot about the part of my childhood egg-dyeing experience where you turn the box the dye came in into a stand for the eggs to dry on. I just stuck them back in the carton they came in, which I don’t think helped the dye dry evenly. But part of it may just be the nature of natural dyes. And I’m fine with it. It gives them more character. But if you want perfect, evenly-dyed eggs, you might have better luck with commercial dyes.
Ok, so now for the details. I started with this guide, which suggests a cup of material per cup of water, except for turmeric.
The basic steps I followed for coloring Easter eggs with natural dyes:
- Grate or finely chop the vegetable.
- Combine with water in a saucepan.
- Bring to a boil, then simmer for 15-30 minutes.
- Let cool to room temperature.
- Strain out the solid material.
- Add 1 Tablespoon vinegar per cup of dye.
- Put the eggs into a glass jar or bowl, and pour the dye on top. Make sure to completely cover the eggs.
- Put the container in the refrigerator, and let the eggs soak in the dye for a few hours, or even a whole day, depending on the depth of color you want. Occasionally check on the colors, and gently mix the dye.
- Once you’ve got the color you want, remove the eggs from the dye and let dry.
- Rub the eggs with a tiny bit of vegetable oil to add shine and help seal the dye.
Every color/plant is different, so here are my experiences with the colors I tried.
This one was actually a total accident. I got this giant beet in my CSA box, and had no idea it was a chiogga/candy stripe beet until I cut it open to use for dye. But it had plenty of pink, I thought, so I decided to go ahead with using it for dyeing. I grated it and added a cup’s worth to 1 1/2 cups of water, then brought it to a boil and simmered it for about 15 minutes before straining out the beet gratings. After I let it cool, I left two eggs in it to dye overnight in the fridge. The next morning I looked at the color and went to the grocery store to buy some red beets, so I could have pink eggs!
Obviously there’s way more pigment here! It even turned my hands pink from grating it. (Wear an apron while grating, so you don’t get juice on your clothes.) I grated a cup (about one medium-small beet), added it to 1 1/2 cups water, brought it to a boil, and simmered for about 30 minutes. For the darkest pink eggs, I left them in the dye overnight, and I left the lighter ones in for just a couple of hours.
Even though I knew that the cabbage would produce blue, I was still surprised by the color! Especially the really intense navy that resulted from leaving the eggs in the dye overnight. I used 1 cup of chopped cabbage (about a quarter of a small cabbage) to 1 1/2 cups of water, and then I ended up diluting the dye a bit more (probably to 2 cups) to completely cover the eggs. I boiled the cabbage for about 30 minutes.
This one is the easiest, but be careful, it will stain everything! (See those blotches of yellow on my cutting board, above the cabbage and beets? Those are from a curry I made with turmeric months ago.) I just added 1 1/2 tablespoons of powdered turmeric to 2 cups of water, and boiled for 15 minutes. Although I tried to strain out the turmeric, a lot of it still ended up in the dye, so I’d probably skip straining it next time. I got BRIGHT YELLOW from leaving the eggs in the dye overnight.
Have you ever dyed Easter eggs with natural dyes, and if so, what colors did you get? Will you try it again this year?