My friend C texted me earlier this week and said she wanted to try coloring eggs with natural dyes this year. Normally, I hate coloring Easter eggs. I’m the kind of clutzy that gets food coloring all over my hands and arms (and, yes, sometimes my face if I scratch my chin or something), and then it stays indelibly for about a week, and I look like a moron.
But, I thought, maybe natural dyes will be different! C is my crafting buddy – we’re always having knit-nights, shopping for yarn, making homemade Christmas cards, etc, so I knew I would have fun even if I did end up with green streaks all over me.
There are a lot of different guides to doing naturally dyed Easter eggs. We started by looking at Martha Stewart’s (obviously). But some of her instructions seemed a little…excessive. I mean, four cups of chopped beets? We’re not made of money (or time. Or giant stock pots), Martha. So then we found some other guides that were a little more low-key, and we decided to be all YOLO and cobble together our own recipes for the dyes.
The colors we tried were:
Red cabbage for blue
Turmeric for yellow
Onion skins for brown/orange
Spinach for green
They all worked beautifully, with two exceptions. The most notable was the absolute and utter failure of the spinach to produce anything resembling color. #EpicFail
It is also worth noting that the spinach smelled truly disgusting as it cooked down in the water, and looked even more disgusting by the time it was done. Add in the smell of the vinegar and the cooked eggs and I was longing for the food coloring of my youth! Lesson learned: next time, forget the spinach. As C said, it may have made Popeye strong, but it just made us sick.
The other is that, shocker, we should have just listened to Martha, because when we decided to use the skins of four onions and less water instead of the skins of twelve onions and more water, most of the water boiled out. I mean, we lessened the formula and calculated the proportions correctly. But for some reason, the water with the onions just evaporated so quickly that we ended up with about a quarter of a cup left for dyeing, which was not enough. We were only able to do one egg at a time, and since only half of it was covered, we had to rotate it like every ten minutes. At first we thought it was because the cabbage and the spinach both contain water, and they might have released it as they cooked, which would keep the water level the same. But the turmeric water didn’t evaporate, and there were no water-containing veggies in that, so go figure. If anyone out there has an actual completed food science degree and can explain what happened, I’d love to know!
But despite the problems with the spinach and the onion skins, we had a lot of fun! The red cabbage/blue eggs came out beautifully, as did the turmeric/yellow ones (they do really look natural, like they could be giant robin’s eggs or golden goose eggs), and of course we had fun goofing around in the kitchen, drinking hot chocolate, and watching Death in Paradise on Netflix in between egg rotations. And best news of all: natural dyes don’t stick to your skin! I am dye-smear free this year!!
Have you ever tried natural dyes on your Easter eggs?