Pin It

Simply MJ 

by Mary Jane Butters
Question: Are there natural dyes I can use to color Easter eggs this year? - Megan McCarthy, Spokane, WA

Mary Jane: Surely there must be some, my farm crew and I thought. We searched the Web for ideas. We found suggestions in magazines like Natural Home and Family Circle. In earnest, we tried their methods using things like blueberry juice, grape juice, shredded red cabbage and beets, onion skins and turmeric. We even tried coffee and tea. Sometimes we used vinegar and sometimes we didn't. For some we used the bring-to-a-boil method, and for some eggs, we dipped them in colored water after they were hard-boiled.

We ended up discouraged. Our counters and fingertips were stained but the natural dyes, except for turmeric, either rubbed off the eggs we used or the shading was too subtle or spotty. We did, however, find one tonic that worked and the results passed our test for making gorgeous Easter eggs. We ended up driving to town for some store- bought red, yellow, green and blue dyes available in the cake section of most any grocery store. In different glass containers deep enough to submerge an egg, we added one teaspoon vinegar for every cup of water. To that we added drops of dye until we got the shade of color we wanted.

Here's our recipe for coloring eggs with turmeric, the only natural dye that worked to our satisfaction. First, cook your eggs by putting them in a saucepan covered with cold water. Bring them to a boil and then turn the heat to a simmer for five minutes. After five minutes, remove the eggs and run cold tap water over them. In a separate saucepan, add one tablespoon turmeric powder to two cups water and bring it to a boil. After the turmeric water cools down a bit, add the hard-boiled eggs. They turn a dusty, soft yellow with or without vinegar. We liked the turmeric yellow better than the yellow store-bought dye.

Prior to dying our eggs, we used a natural method for creating delicate silhouettes and unusual patterns on eggs. We gathered the leaves and flowers of daffodils and pansies. We found interesting serrated leaves on common spring weeds and tiny leaves on our winter kale. In the forest, we found interesting ferns. We selected flat and pliable plant materials. To create our patterns, we held the selected plant flat against an already hard-cooked egg and then centered a five-inch square of nylon cut from a stocking and gathered it around to the backside. We tied it with a string. An extra set of hands helped. We submerged the egg, nylon and all, in a selected dye tonic and let it sit, lifting it occasionally with a spoon to test its "doneness." We created different shades according to how long we let them soak. After removing the nylon and leaves, we let the eggs dry in a carton and then rubbed each one with a light coating of vegetable oil. The oil helped preserve them and added a subtle shine.

To complete our "almost" natural basket of eggs, we hard-boiled the beautiful blue and brown eggs given to us each morning by our chickens and tied decorative ribbons around them. Rather than use the plastic bedding sold this time of year for Easter baskets, we gathered pine needles, grasses, and beautiful mosses to line our baskets. Pine shavings from our woodshop worked, too. The finished egg baskets made beautiful Easter gifts.

Publication date: 04/17/03

  • Pin It

Latest in News

  • Buried in the Headlines
  • Buried in the Headlines

    Big stories largely ignored by the mainstream media
    • Oct 27, 2016
  • A Sense 
of Détente
  • A Sense of Détente

    In only two months, the seemingly intractable battle between mayor and council has turned into an exuberant truce
    • Oct 27, 2016
  • Not Green Enough
  • Not Green Enough

    State says no carbon exemption for Spokane Waste-to-Energy Plant; plus, settlement reached in Priest River high school football concussion lawsuit
    • Oct 27, 2016
  • More »


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Today | Sat | Sun | Mon | Tue | Wed | Thu
Boo at the Zoo

Boo at the Zoo @ Cat Tales Zoological Park

Sun., Oct. 30, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.

All of today's events | Staff Picks

More by Mary Jane Butters

  • Venison Time

    Every fall, my entire Mormon clan went deer hunting for two weeks. In the sagebrush outback of Utah, my parents and relatives created a kid's paradise. Truant from school, we lived in wall tents, washed our clothes by hand, ate withou
    • Oct 16, 2003
  • Simply MJ

    Dear MJ, I've been told that garlic bulbs grow bigger if you don't allow them to flower, so I always cut the flower stalks off. Can you tell me if it's better to wait until the stalk is mature and has straightened out or cut it when i
    • Jul 24, 2003
  • Simply MJ

    It's easy to run to the store and pick up a new hose each time you spring a leak, but not nearly as satisfying as making good use of those holey old hoses taking up space in your shed or garage. They may be just what you need to turn
    • Jul 17, 2003
  • More »

Most Commented On

  • Defending North Idaho

    Why Heather Scott must go
    • Oct 20, 2016
  • The Do-Over

    After failing to pass a bus service tax hike last year, Spokane Transit Authority has a plan to get you to vote for it again
    • Oct 6, 2016
  • More »

Top Tags in
News & Comment

election 2016


green zone


trail mix

Readers also liked…

  • The Virtue of Renee
  • The Virtue of Renee

    After a homeless woman was run over while sleeping outdoors, her family grapples with the events that led her there
    • Mar 11, 2015
  • Calling Out Snitches
  • Calling Out Snitches

    Efforts to make it harder to convict someone solely on an informant have stalled again
    • Mar 18, 2015

© 2016 Inlander
Website powered by Foundation