Its the fight of the century!
The previous years’ champ, the darling of the egg dyes, PAAS was recently robbed of his title due to potentially unhealthy elements in his boxing style. The newcomer, the rookie, the plant based Nature Dye has risen to take the crown. Everyone, everywhere is trying their hand at bringing home the Natural Dye’s style. Suddenly, otherwise reserved moms are begging store clerks for their extra onion skins; they’re boiling buckets of beets and figuring out where to buy turmeric. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, there’s a flurry of activity in the ring of this year’s healthy Easter – but wait! What’s this? There’s another Natural Dye wanting to duke it out with those boiled onions skins? This one comes in a box? You heard that right, the fans will really be getting their money’s worth today – its “Easter Eggs – Natural Dye vs. Natural Dye!”
Why use a natural dye?
Moms are just cool. We really are. No matter what the equation, we’re doing our best to do what’s right for our family. A lot of us are choosing to create a new normal to our holiday celebrations by removing the commercial dyes from our diet. However, for years we’ve colored our frostings and dyed our Easter eggs with one kind of thing and having to do things differently can be daunting. Let’s face it, being a mom during any holiday is a lot of work! Magic doesn’t just happen, you know.
For great articles on why commercial dyes can be dangerous to ingest, just follow these links by Whole New Mom and Pantry Paratus, One thing we finally decided to do this year was to try a natural dye for our Easter eggs instead of using the little tablets, dropped like Alka Seltzer into a row of colored cups. There are, thankfully, lots of posts on this topic by quality bloggers. Here are several and I encourage you to visit them all because each one has a little different experience and varied personal tips. Our experience was good and, anyway, we had fun turning it into a school science project.
Making your own natural dyes
Beforehand, if you can, soak your eggs in some hot water and a bit of vinegar to see if you can rub off the protective layer that’s over the egg shell. It will come off after it soaks in your dye baths and it can take a good deal of the color with it. Also, if you’d like to empty your eggs of their contents, just visit our post on Blown Eggs for Easter.
I did, indeed, pilfer onion skins from my local grocer to create orange and we opened a quart of our home canned Concord grape juice to make purple.
I simmered some beet for hours to get a deep pink.
Turmeric mixed with saffron was in another pot to produce yellow. Actually, come to think of it, I’d just run out of plain turmeric so I used curry – the house smelled so yummy!
We boiled a bit of red cabbage to make a lovely blue dye. With the cabbage, we did one without vinegar and one with vinegar. The one with vinegar immediately turned the blue dye to pink.
We tried some chlorophyll tincture mixed with a bit of water to make green and it worked, but the green was pale even after the eggs sat in them all night.
We also tried algae from a stagnant puddle at the insistence of my science minded eleven year old. It didn’t work but it was cool to try.
For every cup of liquid, we added a tablespoon of vinegar to help set the color. To read why that helps, visit this link to the Provident Homemaker – she explains.
For us, the onion skin (orange) and the beets dyed the eggs shells immediately – the color just set right away. The plain cabbage dye and the grape juice dye were the next fastest but if you wanted a good amount of color, the eggs needed to sit for a few hours. That’s probably the hardest thing about this process – the waiting! We’re used to a few minutes and nearly immediate color combinations with commercial dyes. Our first batch of eggs, we left in overnight. The colors on most were dark and rich. Overnight was overkill on the orange, though, we decided – they look cool, but they’re reeeeaaaallly dark. We did another one or two that were lighter orange.
One of the most interesting results came from the purple (grape juice) dye bath. One jar had vinegar and one didn’t. Both produced a dark, purple color but they also produced a texture on the shell – almost like sandpaper. The bath with the vinegar has a more pronounced texture than the one that didn’t. I’m guessing that there was some sort of reaction between the tartrates in the Concord grape juice and the calcium of the eggshell. Any scientists out there want to explain what it was?
The colors faded a bit and the surface of the egg was a bit chalky as the color dried so we rubbed some coconut oil over the eggs to keep them fresh. Just warm the coconut oil in your hands and be gentle as you apply it. We use blown eggs for our Easter egg dyeing so we have to be extra careful.
Commercial plant based, natural dye?
BUT THEN, we were at Sprouts and my daughter saw a box that said it contained natural, plant based dyes. Well, how about that? So, we did another experiment and called it “Easter Eggs – Natural Dye vs. Natural Dye”! How did they compare? Well, you be the judge.
As per the instructions, we added vinegar to the red, orange and yellow and baking soda to the green, blue and purple. The orange and the yellow worked very quickly – each had some color within an hour. We did another dip for about five hours and those were darker.
The red? Well, um, whatever.We struck out on the blue and purple with these, even after leaving the eggs in the natural dye for about ten hours. It said you could mix these colors like you would paint but the blue wasn’t blue to start out with – it was a vague, dark color somewhere between really? and wha?! The green didn’t work either, sadly. My kids were really hoping for a vibrant green but neither the commercial or homemade dye produced one. We’ll just keep trying. Any suggestions?I’m sure this brand of commercial natural dye makes really nice frosting colors but I think we’ll stick to the homemade natural dyes for future Easter egg dyeing adventures.
To get you started on your naturally dyed Easter egg adventures, you may need these fine products:
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