Make pretty robin's eggs with a simple cabbage dye

Blue eggs
© Melissa Breyer

Skip the synthetic colors and raid the produce drawer to make vibrant dyed eggs.

Thanks to my childhood, I have a soft spot for garishly dyed eggs in all their messy glory, achieved through means of commercial Easter egg dying kits and their distinct breed of synthetic color. But as a grown-up, I am head over heels for the magic that natural pigments deliver. There is no shortage of formulas describing methods for coloring eggs using everything from onion skins to beets to turmeric. (Case in point, our very own from last year: How to make all-natural Easter egg dyes.)

And really, it is a wonderful thing to rewind the clock to the days before color had been synthesized, when people dyed things with natural materials. (Side note: If you've never read the story of English chemist William Perkin and how he stumbled upon synthetic color, the book "Mauve: How One Man Invented a Color That Changed the World," it a subtly astonishing read.) While we've got appliances talking to each other and cars driving themselves, there's a lot to be said for boiling vegetables in a pot and marveling at the alchemy that good ol' fashioned Mother Nature delivers.

For the eggs pictured here, just a few ingredients were involved. Eggs, red cabbage, white vinegar, and water. Plus something to dapple them with. (I used a metallic petal dust from my cake decorating supplies because I had it on hand, but you could use anything, from edible glitter to cocoa powder, for a sufficient speckle effect.)

Cabbage eggs© Melissa Breyer

These really couldn't be easier. I boiled eggs, then coarsely chopped a head of red cabbage and covered it with water in a large pot and gently boiled it for around 45 minutes. Once cooled, I strained the water into a casserole dish, added a few tablespoons of white vinegar, added the eggs and let them sit. The water looks purple, but the eggs will become blue. (I reserved the cabbage; and while rather insipid now that it's been boiled to death, it is a gorgeous shade of lilac will still be delicious in some sort of creation.)

The eggs need to be stirred every once in a while to keep the color even. Since I wanted varying tones, I took some eggs out after an hour and put the whole batch in the refrigerator, removing more eggs from the dye bath after another hour, and so on. (Putting the removed eggs on a drying rack or upright in a muffin tin helps to avoid pools or dye gathering on the bottom of shell.) The ones deepest in color stayed in the juice overnight. Once they arrived at their pretty colors and were dry, I flicked some speckles on them with a toothbrush dipped in petal dust mixed with vodka, bristles pulled back and released with my thumb. Maybe more Jackson Pollock than songbird, but that's just me.

Cabbage eggs© Melissa Breyer

I have always been a fool for robin's eggs so these appeal to me – even if they do look like the product of an expressionistic disco robin; but a variety is equally fun. Check your produce drawer and spice rack ... and if you've got some beets, and turmeric, and spinach, you are well on your way to a rainbow of eggs. No commercial Easter egg dying kits and their distinct breed of synthetic color required.

Make pretty robin's eggs with a simple cabbage dye
Skip the synthetic colors and raid the produce drawer to make vibrantly dyed Easter eggs.

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