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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Easter Egg Experiments

Cherie Langlois
Hobby Farms Contributing Editor

You can use everyday food items to dye Easter eggs
Photo by Cherie Langlois
With our teenage daughter speeding toward high school graduation, I’ve found myself wishing on a near-daily basis that I could turn back the clock and make her my little girl again. 

I know it sounds trite, but it really does seem like only a few short springs ago that she gently cradled ducklings in her toddler arms, or curled up warm against me on a rainy day while we read picture books, or raced around on adventurous Easter egg hunts.  I’m so not ready for my baby to grow up and away.

Maybe that’s why I drafted Kelsey, despite her insistence she had too much homework, to dye Easter eggs tonight using natural dyes, an activity we enjoyed together once upon a time when she was little. 

Unlike using store-bought synthetic dyes, experimenting with spices, herbs, fruit juices and other natural dye materials yields less vividly predictable results, but that’s just what makes it so surprising and fun (at least for science geeks like my daughter and me). 

Take tonight’s Easter egg experiments:  While the exotic golden spice turmeric turned our eggs a predictably vivid shade of yellow, red wine imparted an…um…interesting gray color. 

An instant coffee dye-bath turned our one experimental egg an unexciting light brown (I suspect a robust French roast would have yielded a richer color), but a gloopy, thawed mix of ancient frozen raspberries transformed the eggs to a cool, tie-dyeish looking pink.

If you’d like to give natural egg-dying a try, all you need are eggs (not hard to come by if you keep chickens!), vinegar, and dye ingredients you may already have in your kitchen.  Along with coffee, wine, turmeric, and berry juice, you can experiment with onion skins, teas, paprika, orange peels, beets, spinach leaves, dandelions and more. 

We used the following technique for our eggs (find complete instructions here):

1.  Set uncooked eggs in pan in a single layer (to avoid cracking) and cover with water. 
2.  Add one to two teaspoons of vinegar.
3.  Add the dye material (wine, turmeric, berries, etc.) and stir gently to mix. 
4.  Bring water to boil, then reduce to a simmer for about 15 minutes. 
5.  Remove eggs to an empty carton to dry and cool, then refrigerate.

With younger kids, it’s probably safer if you make up a dye/vinegar bath (without the eggs) and cool the liquid, strain it into mugs, then let them dye hardboiled eggs as they would with a conventional egg-dying kit.  Some dye materials can also be mixed with cold water.  Keep in mind it usually takes longer for colors to deepen with natural dyes.  

Have a Happy Easter!                                             

~ Cherie

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Reader Comments
I know this is about eggs, but I tuned more into letting your baby grow up. My wife and I have long been empty nesters and it's a great blessing to see your kid's thrive beyond your care. So take heart that there is a great world out there for her to discover.
On easter eggs. Here's one thing our kids...now nearing 30...loved. Have them write and draw on the eggs with crayons. All they want. Then dip them in dye. The crayon, of course, resists the die and the images or message pops right out. Like "batik' on eggs. There's no need to make easter eggs so complicated otherwise. Remember it's you being with the kids that's more important than the resulting egg. BTW...my kids loved the crayon method of coloring easter eggs
Terry, Jamestown, NY
Posted: 4/1/2010 7:15:10 PM
If you tie the onions skins around the eggs it gives a really interesting effect! I did this years ago so I don't remember the exact process (Boil eggs w skins? Soak eggs w/ skins in boiling water?)but I remember I loved the results!
Alison, Glastonbury, CT
Posted: 3/31/2010 8:00:59 AM
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