Monday, March 25, 2013

Natural Easter eggs

Judging by the amount of pins on pinterest I’ve seen about using natural dyes to color Easter eggs, the traditional Latvian method of using onion skins should really be in style this year. I went into detail on how this is done in a previous post, as the conventional method involves not only dying the eggs, but by using wraps to hold leaves, grass and other materials against the egg, producing beautiful designs.

Onion skins produce this lovely shade of brown
Another method I first learned about back in elementary school from my Latvian Saturday school teacher Mrs. Kupce, utilizes red cabbage. After chopping up a head of cabbage and boiling it in water for thirty minutes, you strain out the cabbage and add  1 tablespoon vinegar to every cup of water. Logically the amount of water needed is dependent on the size of the pot, as you want all the eggs to be covered, but generally a higher concentration of cabbage will produce a darker dye. After the pot has cooled (so as not to crack the eggs) you put your eggs in and bring to boil. Once boiling I turn off the heat and let sit, usually for about one to two hours.

Red cabbage gives this lovely blue
This year it was nowhere as difficult to find white eggs as it was in France the last couple of years, nor did I have to expend as much effort to collect onion skins; I still received odd looks while checking out at the grocery store, but it’s much easier explaining what I’m doing with a bag full of onion peels and no onions when I can speak English. Because it all went so smoothly I decided to try my hand at a couple of other natural dyes. I had heard blueberries produce a nice blue dye, but as red cabbage creates a similar effect I opted for two different colors. From making the traditional Latvian beet soup (recipe here) I knew beets always leave my hands stained a bright red, and after a bit of research I discovered carrot tops can produce a yellow dye.

The Greenville Latvians came by Friday to color eggs, so I made sure I had four pots on the stove, one for each color. The carrot tops and beets I prepared similar to the cabbage, chopping the carrot tops but shredding the beets. On Thursday I boiled each for 30 minutes, strained out the solids, then added 1 tablespoon of vinegar for each cup of liquid. By Friday morning the pots had cooled and we introduced the eggs. After bringing to a boil we let them sit for about 90 minutes.

Using beets resulted in a rich brown color
I didn’t have much luck with the two new methods. The beet-colored eggs turned out a beautiful, rich brown, but as the onion skins give a similar result I wasn’t impressed; I was expecting red. The carrot tops gave just a hint of yellow, nowhere near the vibrant color I saw online in my research. I can only guess that I need a lot more carrot tops (I used about 6 carrots which amounted to about 2 ounces). Talking to friends afterward I found that a possible solution for the beet-dye is to hard boil my eggs before placing in the dye (prepared as described), and not boiling them but just soaking.

The palest yellow eggs from carrot tops

The traditional onion skin and red cabbage eggs came out as expected. Some of the higher contrasting designs brought to mind those sun sheets I had as a kid; the paper reacted to sunlight, and would retain color under items you had placed on the paper before leaving everything out in the sun for several hours.
I’m curious to hear about any natural dyes you have used to color your Easter eggs. It would be interesting to give the beets another shot next year, and possibly turmeric can give the bright yellow I was hoping for with the carrot tops? And just so the boys get to experience something other than the traditional, we’ll be joining friends on Tuesday to decorate eggs with googly-eyes, markers and stickers. Are there specific googly-eyes I should be using?


  1. I love the idea of naturally dyed eggs and that blue from the red cabbage looks gorgeous. I may just have to give it a try. Mel x

  2. I have noticed that it's definitely a trend this year to do naturally dyed eggs. I absolutely love the color you got from the red cabbage!

  3. Very nice post. I really enjoy it. Did you know that in Hungary we use the same techniques to dye eggs for Easter?
    Have a great day :)

  4. Great post! I love finding natural dyes, so I am glad to have you doing the experimenting for me ;) Thanks for sharing at the Culture Swapper!


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