Egg dying is one of my favorite parts of Easter. Gathering my kids outside in old clothes and letting them dunk eggs in little cups of color is almost magical. Last year, we tried dying our eggs with natural dyes. I was hesitant at first, but we had a great time, and a mini science lesson, and it instantly became a family tradition.
This year, after educating myself a little more on the topic, I am ready. I now have an arsenal of colors available. Here is what I've found.
Science behind it
Nature is full of colors, and you can use almost anything to dye your eggs. The trick is to help your dyes penetrate the egg pores. And using only edible dyes. Yes, eggs have pores, so whatever you put on the shell will touch the hardboiled egg you eat.
Whatever you use as dyestuff, make sure you add mordant. This sounds like something a hobbit would have. But it's a scientific term for alum, cream of tartar or white vinegar. This is what helps the dye penetrate the egg and stay put. Typically you will need 2 TBS for every 4 cups of water used.
Raw egg option
You can boil your raw eggs in their respective dyes, just make sure to add your mordant. Place your eggs in a pot with 4 cups of water, or enough to cover the eggs by an inch. Add your mordant and dyestuff. Bring to a boil then reduce the heat to a simmer for 15 minutes. Turn off the heat and put a lid on the pot for another 15 minutes before you remove your eggs. You should have perfect hard boiled eggs, but please check an egg before you allow your children to eat them, raw eggs can carry salmonella and salmonella is painful.
If you prefer to hard boil them alone then add to dyes, this is a perfectly acceptable option, as well. Boil your dyestuff in 4 cups of water, continue to boil until there is a deep rich color. Allow your water to cool to room temperature and strain before adding your eggs. The longer you leave the egg in the dye the deeper the color. I suggest at least 30 minutes per color. This may seem like forever for smaller children so have other activities ready for them while they wait.
This is the fun part. Here is a list of dyes you might use. Remember, you can experiment for yourself. Just be sure to add the mordant to the boiling pot.
Tea bags: With the different colors of tea you have a great choice of colors. These give great earth tones.
Beets: Our personal favorite. Beets have fantastic deep purple-red tones.
Purple or red cabbage: This actually gives you a great blue color.
Yellow onion: Use just the papery outside to create a rusty color.
Red onion skin: Use the skin you have peeled off your red onion and boil with 4 cups of water for a nice jade green color.
Grape juice: a nice lavender color.
Why not add masking tape in a fun design to your dry eggs or try stickers?
If you would like to experiment with foliage grab a few pairs of pantyhose. Knee highs work great. Grab a few flowers, daisies are fantastic or ferns for a nice leaf pattern. Be sure to use flowers and leaves that will add an interesting design to the egg without being so large you can't wrap it around the egg itself. When using a daisy place the egg on the face of the daisy and break off the stem. With the daisy successfully cradling the egg place them both in the toe of the pantyhose. Twist to tighten and add a rubber band to the twist to secure it in place. Then soak the entire thing in your dye. You may want to leave these eggs in the dye for a few hours, even overnight. When you remove the eggs the areas covered by the foliage will have stayed white.
When using two different colors, wrap rubber bands around the eggs to keep stripes white then submerge in your darker color. Remove the egg from the dye and allow to dry before removing the rubber bands. Then soak in the lighter dye color.
Add a shiny finish to your eggs with vegetable oil when you are done.
However you choose to dye your eggs, make it fun. This part of Easter can be a tradition you look forward to every year.