Dying eggs with spices, vegetables

Mar. 23, 2013 @ 08:26 AM

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about the abundance of eggs at the farmers’ market in the early springtime. It has always interested me that this abundance of eggs in the spring coincides with Easter and Passover -- two holidays whose meals incorporate hard-boiled, dyed eggs.

I was recently discussing the correlation of the great quantity of springtime eggs and holidays that use eggs with my dad and he told me how when he was a kid, he and his neighbors would boil eggs in onionskins at Easter in order to dye their eggs. 

This got me thinking about other natural dyes for eggs. So, I did a little bit of research, gathered some ingredients, turned my kitchen into a test lab and started to figure out how to dye eggs using vegetables, spices and other foods as dye. Dying eggs this way takes more time than doing it with store-bought dye, but it is a lot more fun.

To make a dye using vegetables, gather a few cups of the vegetable and chop them up. Or to make a dye using spices, gather 4-5 tablespoons. Mix the vegetable or spices with about a quart of water and add 2 tablespoons of white vinegar. Bring to a boil and let simmer for about 20 minutes.  Let the dye cool to room temperature and strain it.

Then, place room-temperature hardboiled eggs into the dye for about an hour. For deeper shades, put the dye and the eggs in the refrigerator and let it soak until you get a shade that you like. Let your colored eggs dry and polish with a little bit of olive oil to make them shine!

The list below tells the colors that result when dying white eggs, the results will vary when using brown eggs.

-- Purple cabbage makes a light blue dye.

-- Red onionskins made a brownish red dye.

-- Yellow onionskins make a brownish yellow dye.

-- Beets make a pinkish maroon dye.

-- Turmeric makes a yellow dye.

-- Chili powder makes a reddish dye.

-- Coffee or black tea make lovely shades of brown dyes.

-- Purple cabbage mixed with some turmeric makes a light green dye.

If dying eggs isn’t your idea of fun, but you still want to have colored eggs for your holiday celebrations, farmers raise multiple breeds of chickens that naturally lay eggs in a variety of colors. On a typical market day, you can find eggs in many shades of white and cream,  shades of brown that range from beige to brown to almost pink; and there are even green eggs!

Erin Kauffman is market manager of the Durham Farmers’ Market