Tomorrow being Easter, a day on which there is some expectation that there will eggs for which to hunt in the backyard (weather permitting), the Free-Ride offspring and I decorated some eggs. We had an old package of oil-based dyes to make “swirled” eggs (the basic idea being that you float drops of the dye on top of cold water, then lowers the egg into the patches of dye, creating a sort of Jackson Pollock swirly effect on the shell).
But for the next dozen eggs, we thought we’d try something a little different. So we gathered some plant materials we thought might have pigments that we could use to create homemade dyes.
Here’s our basic procedure:
Put the plant material in a small saucepan. Cover with water and bring to a boil. Add eggs to be dyed, reduce to simmer, and cook for 20 minutes.
A couple notes:
This cooking time assumes raw eggs in the shell, with an aim to create hard boiled eggs with colored shells. If you are working with blown eggs (i.e., egg shells whose innards have been blown out), you don’t actually need to cook the shells you’re dyeing, and you can leave the egg shells in the dye for as long as you want to develop a darker color.
If you are using plant material that is not known to be edible, use only blown eggs. You don’t want something potentially toxic seeping into your hard boiled eggs.
(What can you do with the innards blown out of the eggshells? We’re using them to make matzoh balls.)
What we tried:
Skins from yellow onions:
This made a very deep reddish-brown. In the event that you ever need to disguise white eggs as brown eggs, an onion skin dye could do a passable job.
Red and pink stems from Rainbow Chard:
Sadly, not much happened. The eggs’ boiling water was a pale pink, but the egg shells still look white. (I’ve posed the two I dyed with an undyed egg. There’s a difference, but it’s disappointingly subtle.)
Pickled beet pickling liquid:
If you have a fresh beet on hand, you can slice it up into the sauce pan, cover with water, and boil to create a dye. But we had a container of pickled beets in the fridge, so we just stole some of that liquid and soaked blown eggs in it for awhile.
Petals from dark purple tulips:
For this one, because we are not habitual tulip eaters, we only used blown eggs.
The color that developed was a dark blue with maybe a hint of a greenish cast to it.
Yes, the very same kind of red cabbage you can use to make your own indicator. A few things are worth mentioning here. First, neither raw eggs nor blown eggs developed much in the way of color after 20 minutes of simmering. So we took the cabbage water off the heat and kept soaking. Second, the egg shells with egg innards still inside grabbed the pigment better than the blown eggs. Third, even though the cabbage water itself has a definite purple color to it, the color that developed on the shells of the hard boiled eggs was blue.
Any guesses as to what might explain that last detail? Anyone?
Some other plant materials rumored to give good results are walnut shells and coffee grounds. I’m betting grape skins from dark purple grapes might yield interesting results, too.