Easter, 2014

I tried an experiment this Easter: dyeing boiled eggs using natural dyes. I think it worked really well. I tried beets, red cabbage, yellow onion skins, and tea bags. Then for a lark, we popped a boiled egg into a glass of red wine that was a bit past its prime. We got a nice pale purple out of that, as well as tartaric acid crystals all over the egg. That gave it a nice and very unusual glitter. The wine-dyed egg is in the middle row on the left. The four in back were dyed with conventional dyes.

Eggs in front were dyed with natural dyes. The ones in the back row were dyed using standard Easter egg food coloring dyes.

Eggs in front were dyed with natural dyes. The ones in the back row were dyed using standard Easter egg food coloring dyes.

These were not eggs from my chickens. My chickens lay brown eggs, which are not suitable for dyeing. Nicole got a a dozen white eggs from the store, which we simmered for 15 minutes.

Onion Skin Dye (yellow-orange)

Take the dry outer skins from 4-5 yellow onions and boil for 15 minutes in 1.5 cups of water. Strain the liquid off and discard the skins. Add a teaspoon of vinegar to the liquid. Put a boiled egg into the hot liquid and let it sit for 15-30 minutes until desired intensity is achieved. This will give a nice yellow-orange dye, seen in the middle two eggs, front row.

Red Cabbage Dye (pale blue)

Chop up a half head small red cabbage and boil it in 1.5 cups of water for 15-30 minutes Drain, reserving the liquid. You can eat the cabbage if you want. Add a teaspoon of vinegar to the hot liquid and let a boiled egg sit in it for a half hour. The result will be a lovely pale blue. The eggs on the right side, front, above were dyed with red cabbage dye.

Beet Dye (pink)

Chop up a beet and boil in 1.5 cups water for 15-30 minutes. Drain, reserving the liquid, and add a teaspoon of vinegar. Dye eggs in the hot liquid for 15-30 minutes. You should get a nice pink color, as in the center right egg above.

Tea Bag Dye (brown)

Boil 4 tea bags in 1.5 cups of water for about 15 minutes. Remove tea bags, add a teaspoon of vinegar, and dye boiled eggs for about 15-30 minutes. The two eggs on the front right row above were dyed with tea bags. You should get an interesting mottled brown pattern.

The eggs were fun to do, but spending Easter weekend with the little grandkids was even more fun. First we went to the library for Saturday morning “reading to the dogs.” The twins got practice reading to the two service dogs, while little Mike and Megan ran around and played.

Allison reads to Finley. Mostly the dogs went to sleep while they were being read to. LOL.

Allison reads to Finley. Mostly the dogs went to sleep while they were being read to. LOL.

Mike likes to play at the library.

Mike likes to play at the library.

Mike likes to play at home too. This is his new Black and Decker tool bench.

Mike likes to play at home too. This is his new Black and Decker tool bench.

The Easter bunny leaves footprints and poops out jelly beans when he comes to visit. The kids dye the eggs and put them in the refrigerator, but the tricky bunny then hides the eggs overnight. The kids have to go find them. Two-year-old Mike was mystified at this new ritual.

The Easter bunny leaves footprints and poops out jelly beans when he comes to visit. The kids dye the eggs and put them in the refrigerator, but the tricky bunny then hides the eggs overnight. The kids have to go find them. Two-year-old Mike was mystified at this new ritual.

But he sure saw the jelly beans on the floor.

But he sure saw the jelly beans on the floor.

He called the jelly beans "hop-hop poo-poo," and ate them.

He called the jelly beans “hop-hop poo-poo,” and ate them.

Too funny.

Too funny.

Then Mike settled down in Papa's lap to show him all the goodies in his Easter basket.

Then Mike settled down in Papa’s lap to show him all the goodies in his Easter basket.

The bunny brought new books for the girls to read.

The bunny brought new books for the girls to read.

What a great Easter.

Have you ever used natural dyes to dye Easter eggs?

About Lou Murray, Ph.D.

I'm a professional writer/photographer, avid gardener, and active environmentalist living in southern California. I am retired from writing a weekly newspaper column on environmental topics in the Huntington Beach Independent, but I am still teaching at the Orange County Conservation Corps. This blog chronicles my efforts to live a green life growing as much food as possible for my husband and myself on a 4,500 sq ft yard that is covered mainly by house, garage, driveway, and sidewalks.
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2 Responses to Easter, 2014

  1. Carleen Ono says:

    Hi Lou, I am a new subscriber and just did a little search of back messages. In your January 2014 blog, you asked about what to do with your strawberries. I live not far from you in H.B., and will share my experience with strawberries:

    Three years ago, I put six strawberry plants along one side of a raised bed. The first year, they grew and produced a few tiny berries and also a lot of outreaching stems that created new plants wherever the stem ends fell, including outside the raised bed. The rest of the veggies I had put in that bed were disappointing, so I let the strawberries take over the whole bed. It became packed with plants.

    The following year, I had more berries–enough for me to go out and pick a few every day for about a month. I felt that I was having my vitamins, and they were delicious, though quite small.

    The third year, (2013), I got even more berries, and some were bigger–a satisfying harvest for one person I’d say. (I had tried to pick out the original half-dozen plants and discard them, so these were probably all 2nd year plants, but they had been growing a full two years or more.) The bigger plants produced bigger berries. And I got a double harvest–an early one and a late. I think the late harvest peaked in April. I can’t remember when I got the early harvest.

    Then after that second year–not counting the first six plants– I could see that the soil was fairly exhausted. In January, I dug out all the plants, dug in about 50% new, organic soil (bagged stuff from a nursery), and then replanted the best of the smaller (newer) plants. Now (April, 2014), I am getting a small harvest of berries from those little plants. The berries are tiny, and often oddly shaped, but very tasty. I had no early harvest this year, except for one or two berries. When these plants shut down, I will keep them growing and healthy through the summer and fall, and then let them go dormant until mid-winter–if we have a winter–and then add fertilizer in January.

    If all goes well, I will let these same plants go through a second year of production, then add new soil and fertilizer where I can find space between the plants, rather than take them out and start fresh as I did with the previous batch of plants.

    If I could find a place to buy this kind of berry, I would. I have tried farmers’ markets, but the few times I found really sweet, tasty berries, they were in bad shape. They just don’t hold up well once picked. I usually eat mine right out of the garden–dirt and all. Sorry, I can’t tell you what the name of the berries was. I got them at a local nursery, and picked them because the description said “small,” so I knew they were not the big, tasteless store type.

    • Carleen, thanks for sharing your experience with strawberries. Mine are still languishing in their original planter boxes. I haven’t done anything with them yet. But I think they need some kind of rejuvenation.

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