Dyeing and decorating Easter eggs is a fun family tradition, but have you ever made naturally dyed Easter eggs? My mother grew up in Switzerland and passed this fun family tradition on to me, my sisters and brother. She showed us how to dye Easter eggs using natural materials that left beautiful, natural colors and designs – simple, artisanal and great family fun. If you have other techniques for naturally dyed Easter eggs, share them here, I’d love to hear them. Using natural elements to dye Easter eggs is a great way to engage your family and friends – and keep it chemical-free! Try naturally dyed Easter eggs this year for a more organic spin on Easter.
The first step is to go outside and gather anything that is green – leaves of a bush or tree, grass, parsley or anything from the garden. Make sure that it’s not toxic or poisonous. You’ll use these supplies, so get creative and gather your green materials.
You’ll also need yellow onion skins. If you have a bag of organic onions, you can cull the skins. If not, go to the grocery store, pick through the organic yellow onions and gather up the loose skins. Usually if you tell the person working in the produce section and/or the cashier what you have in the bag and what you’re going to do with them, they’ll just let you take them. (I use about a produce bags worth for a dozen eggs.) These skins form the foundation of your naturally dyed Easter eggs, so this is an important ingredient, don’t be shy; gather those skins.
Finally, you’ll need thread. This is what you’ll use to wrap around the eggs to hold the greens in place. Though you might be able to use string, I’ve never used it and would recommend you stick with thread – the color of the thread doesn’t matter.
OK, you’ve got your greens, yellow onion skins and thread – oh, right, and uncooked eggs, preferable organic, of course. I use white eggs – I’ve never tried eggs that are brown or blue/green (from Araucana chickens), but that could be fun too.
By wrapping the greens on the eggs, the greens will leave a yellow color. So, the greens are the decoration or the design element. You can put as much or as little on as you like. You can wrap the entire egg or use just a few pieces – your choice. All of your naturally dyed Easter eggs will be totally different from each other – just like snowflakes! The onion skins will dye the eggs a beautiful earthy red color and coupled with the yellow creates naturally dyed Easter eggs worthy of art.
Use the thread to tie the greens to the egg. The pattern of the thread will also become part of the design. The good news – there is no wrong way to do this. So, it’s a great activity for the whole family, though it does require some manual dexterity to handle the egg, the greens and the thread. Wrap the thread any which way, many times around to hold the greens tight to the egg. Tying off the thread is usually a bit tricky, so if you’re doing this with younger children, help with this part. You’ll need to look for a loose area to thread the string through so that you can tie a knot and keep the thread tight while it is boiled. It doesn’t need to look nice or be tidy – it just takes a bit of patience – you’ve got plenty of that, right?
Now it’s time to dye and hard boil your Easter eggs. Add cold water to a large pan and place the eggs and the onion skins inside. Bring the water to a boil. Once it comes to a boil, turn off the heat, cover the pot and let it sit for 17 minutes without disturbing the eggs. Pour off the water and rinse with the eggs in cold water and let them cool. Discard the onion skins. Once the eggs are cool enough to touch, you can begin to unwrap your little treasures and marvel at your beautiful, artisanal, naturally dyed Easter eggs. Refrigerate until you’re ready to hide or get cracking and eat them right away! Happy Easter!