Who needs an overpriced kit with synthetic color tablets when you've already got colorful ingredients in your kitchen?
Long before overpriced, bunny-covered boxes of Easter egg dyes enticed every child walking into a supermarket in late spring, people colored eggs with ordinary ingredients found in any kitchen. It’s easier than you think. All you do is boil some richly pigmented foods in water, add vinegar and salt, and let white hard-boiled eggs soak. You’ll end up with beautiful colors that cost much less than a kit, make good use of food scraps that might otherwise go to waste, and be able to eat the finished product – something you should never do with conventionally dyed eggs.
You can use cooled hardboiled eggs, but these should stay in the fridge after dyeing if you plan to eat them. Alternatively, you can pierce a hole at either end and blow out the contents; make scrambled eggs and use the shells, though you must be careful because they’re fragile. You can also dye raw eggs. Over time, the yolk inside will shrivel up and you’ll be able to hear a faint rattle when you shake it, but this takes months. Decorated raw eggs will not smell unless they’re broken before the insides dry out. This is the method I always use when making Ukrainian eggs each year.
The dyeing formula stays roughly the same, no matter what you use: 2 cups of water for every 1 cup of chopped vegetable or fruit. If using turmeric, add 6 tbsp to the same amount of water. Boil the vegetable for 20 minutes, add 1 tbsp each of white vinegar and salt, then submerge the egg.
Natural dyes don’t work as quickly as synthetic colors, so you have to be patient. As The Globe and Mail said in a 2012 article on this topic, “The instant-gratification factor of this craft is low,” so it may be challenging for young kids. The longer you leave it, the darker it will be. Overnight may be a good idea.
Blue-Turquoise: Chopped purple cabbage
Purple: A cheap red wine or grape juice, undiluted
Pink: Beets and peels, frozen cherries or raspberries, pomegranate juice (undiluted)
Yellow: Turmeric powder or shredded turmeric root for brighter color; simmered orange peels for lighter shade
Red-Orange: Paprika or chopped carrots, chili powder for a browner hue
Green-Blue: Boil green cabbage, then add some turmeric.
Bluish-Grey: Frozen blueberries
Brown-Gold: Simmer 2 tbsp dill seeds in a cup of water and strain before use, or use strong coffee.
Green: Spinach or parsley
Make the eggs prettier by wrapping in elastic bands or drawing on them with a wax crayon or birthday candle before dyeing. (That’s the idea behind Ukrainian pysanky, where wax designs cover different layers of color and then are melted off by holding over a candle.) Make a mottled texture by dabbing with a sponge. Shine dry eggs with coconut oil.