Easter Eggs Dyed the Natural Way

A how-to guide to making Easter egg dyes from the leftovers in your refrigerator

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Nothing says Easter quite like the smell of vinegar and hard-boiled eggs. In my house growing up, we dyed the eggs a few days before Easter morning. We displayed them in baskets for a few days before my parents hid them around the house the night before Easter.

We were never allowed to eat our Easter eggs that morning. If we wanted eggs, my mother insisted, she would make new ones. But I have heard plenty of stories of people eating hard-boiled eggs that sat out for hours, or even days, at room temperature and never had any problems. Now obviously, anecdotal evidence is nothing to base a theory on. The FDA suggests not eating hard-boiled eggs that have sat out for more than two hours and to eat refrigerated hard-boiled eggs within one week. Good Housekeeping agrees with the two-hour rule. Looks like my mother was right.

Decorated Easter eggs are popular in many cultures and range from the simple one-colored American classic to the elaborately detailed pysanka of Ukraine. Some eggs are so meticulously crafted that they aren't meant for eating at all. Although members of my family never ate the eggs, many Americans do. Here are a few suggestions for ingredients to naturally dye your Easter eggs this year:

  • Beets: Boil the eggs with canned beets and juice for a light pink color. For a richer hue, soak cooked eggs in the beet water overnight. This same method works with carrots for a light orange color.
  • Blueberries: Add a few cups of blueberry to boiling water for a light purple color. For a richer hue, let eggs sit in the blueberry-infused water after cooling for a few hours or overnight. The pigment comes from the skin of the fruit, so there's no reason to mash the berries before adding them to the water.
  • Cranberry juice: Boil eggs in full-strength cranberry juice for a light pink color.
  • Onion Skins: Boil raw eggs with plenty of yellow onion skins for a golden color. Edhat magazine out of Santa Barbara has some amazing photos of eggs dyed with onion skins and decorated using flowers from a garden. All you need are eggs, flowers, boiling water and stockings. For a pinkish color, try using red onion skins.
  • Paprika: Adding a few tablespoons of paprika to boiling water will result in a reddish hue.
  • Purple grape juice: Dilute the grape juice by up to 50 percent and boil raw eggs in the mixture. The color will be a light blue.
  • Red Cabbage: Boil cabbage and let hard-boiled eggs soak in the liquid overnight.
  • Red Wine: Boil raw eggs in red wine for a deep purple color. (This same method is used to create a rich purple-hued pasta.)
  • Spinach: Boil raw eggs with spinach or boil spinach in water and let already-cooked eggs soak in the liquid overnight.
  • Turmeric: I wrote about turmeric a few months ago. It is a strong dye and usually turns my utensils and plates yellow. Add a few tablespoons to a pot of boiling water and eggs. This method would also work with the more expensive saffron, which adds the yellow color to Spanish rice and paella.

What natural dyes have you tried? Did they work? (Thanks to Reader's Digest and the Charleston Gazette)

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