A few years ago, I decided to try dyeing Easter eggs using natural materials. Growing up, we’d always used the boxed sets from the grocery store without thinking too much about it until my daughter Olivia wanted to dye eggs. Artificial dyes seem like a bad idea for our kids and the planet, so I searched on the Web and found some healthier alternatives. The first year, we soaked our eggs in various juices made from beets, blueberries, spinach, onion skins, and spices like cumin, chili powder, and turmeric. The results resembled Maine beach stones, colors softened by the sun. They weren’t the electric blues, greens, pinks, and yellows of my childhood, but they made a lovely collection.
I was delighted recently when Kerry Whitaker shared a Portland Press Herald article called “Easter Eggs to Dye For.” In it, Meredith Goad presents a step-by-step guide to her process, complete with photographs. She offers some useful tips, including boiling most of the dye materials with water and vinegar to concentrate and fix the colors, and dyeing the eggs overnight in pint sized canning jars in the fridge. While it takes a bit longer and requires some planning, natural egg dyeing is fun and satisfying.
Yesterday afternoon, Olivia helped peel the cabbage, label the jars, and, with slender fingers, carefully place the eggs in the jars. Various pots simmered on the stove, filling the house with homey scents: Clementine and turmeric, blueberries and cranberries, yellow onion and red cabbage. The biggest challenge was finding enough saucepans and space on the stove, especially when Jonathan wanted to cook dinner.
In the morning, I was as excited as Olivia and Benny, eager to pull each egg out of its bath to see its new color. It was hard to wait for them to dry, but the final results were worth the wait. Using fresh Spring Brook Farm brown eggs yielded slightly subtler colors, but we all agree they’re beautiful. And it’s nice to know the dyes we’re adding come from fruits and vegetables, not a science lab.