April 4, 2012

Easter egg dyes, courtesy of nature

Last Easter, Press Herald food writer Meredith Goad wrote about her experiments using natural dyes to color eggs. She boiled everything from red cabbage to onion skins, and filled dozens of jars with dye. Some dyes exceeded her expectations, while others proved disappointing. Here's a recap of what she discovered:

click image to enlarge

Natural colorings for dyeing Easter eggs can be extracted from a variety of fruits and vegetables, ranging from red cabbage, lemons and carrot tops to red onions, beets and oranges.

2011 Press Herald File/Gregory Rec

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CRANBERRY JUICE: This doesn't have to be boiled; just set the eggs down in the juice. The result is an egg that is, initially, the color of red wine. (Some people suggest using red wine to get the same color, but to me that is just a waste of good wine.) The cranberry juice dye came off too easily in my overnight batch. I tried it again, soaking the eggs for just a few hours, and had much better results. Recommended with reservations.

GRAPE JUICE: In the overnight batch, one egg came out pale with barely any color, and the other came out a nice purplish-blue, but with uneven color. I soaked another egg the following day and, like the cranberry juice, had much better results with more even color. Recommended with reservations.

POMEGRANATE JUICE: The color on one egg came right off, but the other came out a pretty brownish mottled color, kind of like the egg of a wild bird. Initially I wanted to tell you to stay away from this juice, but I got so many oohs and ahhhs over the pomegranate egg in the newsroom, I decided to change my recommendation. People said they thought the egg looked like a dinosaur egg or a planet. Recommended.

RASPBERRY ZINGER TEA: You might think that raspberries and hibiscus, both found in this tea, would produce pink eggs. Mine came out a pretty sage green. Recommended.

CANNED TART CHERRIES IN SYRUP: No boiling necessary. I poured these into a bowl first, and mashed the cherries a bit. Then I filled a canning jar with cherries and syrup, and lowered a couple of eggs into the mixture. The result? A beautiful deep blue. Highly recommended.

SPINACH: I boiled some frozen spinach for this batch. The eggs came out a lovely light green. Recommended.

GREEN TEA: This worked too, but it produced a brighter green than the spinach. Recommended.

RED ONION SKINS: These are supposed to turn eggs red or violet, but mine came out a deep green. Go figure. It was a nice green, though. Recommended.

RED ONION SKINS WITH POMEGRANATE JUICE: This combination was supposed to make a darker color. One came out a deep greenish purple; the other a greenish brown. Recommended only if you really like purple and don't mind experimenting until it comes out right.

RED CABBAGE: This was my favorite. If you make only one color of egg this Easter, let this be the one. Yes, it's red cabbage, but the egg comes out a gorgeous, deep royal blue. Highly recommended.

BROWN EGG BOILED IN RED CABBAGE DYE: I read on the Internet that a brown egg boiled in red cabbage dye and then left in the fridge overnight would turn a royal blue. I did get blue, but it was a deep blue – almost black – color when it first came out of the dye. After drying for a while, it looked very similar to the blueberry eggs. Recommended with reservations.

CARROT TOPS: Carrot tops are supposed to make a yellow egg, but again, I got green. It was a golden yellowish-green that looked like a color you'd find in a wild egg. I'm not too crazy about it for Easter. Not recommended.

ORANGE PEEL: This produced a very light orange egg, a color so pale it was almost not there at all. It was quite pretty if you like really subtle colors, and it would probably make a great paint color. For Easter, I normally wouldn't recommend it. But it sure did look nice sitting in a basket nestled among the brighter eggs. Recommended with reservations.

BLUEBERRIES: I used frozen blueberries. Again, I put the blueberries in a bowl and mashed them up a bit before boiling. These eggs came out a beautiful dark blue, the exact color of blueberries. Recommended.

BEETS: This is another one of my favorites. The eggs initially came out of the dye a beautiful blood-red color. Unfortunately, as they dried, they lost a lot of their brightness. They're still pretty, though. Highly recommended.

YELLOW ONIONS: I hate – I mean, really hate – onion skins. They stick to your fingers and clothes, they fall on the floor, and they are impossible to sweep up because they stick to the broom. But they sure do make some pretty Easter eggs. They come out a beautiful dark orange. Highly recommended.

GROUND CUMIN: This is supposed to produce yellow eggs, but they come out a pale brown. Not recommended.

LEMON PEEL: If you like yellow, you'll like this pretty light color, like lemon chiffon. Recommended.

TURMERIC: Be careful using turmeric, because it stains everything. The upside is that it also stains eggs

– a bright, sunny yellow. You can even wash this one

– and you'll have to, because the wet spice sticks to the egg like a paste

– but it won't affect the color. Highly recommended.

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