When I was a kid, every Easter I dunked eggs in mugs filled with those fizzing tablets that instantly produced vibrant colors. It was the ’70s, or the better-living-through-chemistry decade, when no one questioned how chemicals affected our health. Today, even though the kits sold in stores proclaim to be nontoxic, many still contain synthetic food dyes that studies have linked to allergies and behavioral problems like ADHD in children.
Why not skip the kits with neon colors and glitter pens (they contain polyurethane) and go au naturel this spring? Using veggies, fruits, spices, tea, and coffee will produce a vivid array of hues from soft pastels to deep, earthy tones. Of course, creating dyes with organic produce will help you avoid pesticide residue, too.
Here’s how to concoct natural dyes in 4 steps:
Kid-Friendly Cold Method:
Step 1. Hard-boil 1 dozen white eggs (brown eggs do not take color well).
Step 2. To make each of these 6 colors, add the following foods to separate pots:
- Purple: 1/2 head red cabbage, shredded; 1 beet, shredded; 1 cup grape juice; 2 Celestial Seasonings Red Zinger tea bags
- Pink: 2 beets, shredded; 10 chopped blackberries; 2 Celestial Seasonings Red Zinger herbal tea bags
- Green: 1 bunch parsley, chopped; 2.5 oz spinach, chopped; 3 oz blueberries, slightly crushed; 2 green tea bags
- Gold: 3 tablespoons turmeric
- Orange-Yellow: 3 pinches of saffron
- Brown: 1 quart coffee (no need to use any water; just add the vinegar)
Step 3. Fill a 2-quart pot with 4 cups of water and ¼ cup distilled white vinegar. Stir ingredients thoroughly, cover the pot, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer 20 minutes. Turn off heat, and strain dye into bowls with a colander to remove food.
Step 4. Place hard-boiled eggs into bowls of dye. For light pastel hues, leave eggs in dye for 15 minutes. For darker, more vibrant colors, let eggs sit in dye overnight and place bowl in fridge. Let your little one remove eggs with their fingers or use a slotted spoon before putting your colorful creations in egg cartons to dry.
Quick Hot Method:
Step 1. Fill a 2-quart pot with 4 cups of water and ¼ cup distilled white vinegar.
Step 2. To create different colored dyes, follow the directions in Step 2 of the Kid-Friendly Cold Method above.
Step 3. Fill a 2-quart pot with 4 cups of water and ¼ cup distilled white vinegar. Stir these ingredients together, then add raw eggs to each pot, making sure the liquid covers them. Cover the pot, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer 20 minutes.
Step 4. Turn off heat, and let sit in hot water for 13 minutes. At this point, colors will be light. If you prefer pastels, remove eggs with a slotted spoon and put them in egg cartons to dry. If you want darker shades, remove lid, and let the eggs sit in the pots for up to an hour. The eggs will overcook a bit but will taste just fine.
Easy Eco Egg-Dyeing Tips
- Keep in mind that kids used to eggs emerging from dyes brightly colored within seconds will have to be patient when coloring without chemicals. Explain that not only is this more eco method better for our bodies, it’s also healthier for the environment because you are not letting chemicals wash down the drain and enter our groundwater, rivers, and oceans.
- Leave the food in the pot of dye to create interesting speckling and patterns, like leaf imprints from the chopped parsley.
- If you want to avoid those textures, remove the food from the pots with a slotted spoon or strain through a colander.
- Hard-boiled eggs can be kept in the fridge for up to 1 week.
- Compost all produce, coffee, and tea you used to be even more eco-fabulous.