Every year when we color eggs, we do something slightly different. I've spent years looking for the perfect egg dye kit. I've purchased tye dye egg kits, glitter egg kits, speckled egg kits, special chalks and crayons, egg-in-a-plastic bag kits, and a host of other Paas products. (What kind of a business name is "Paas" anyway? That word looks like it belongs on an item sold at Ikea.) All promising to give you professional looking, decorated Easter eggs that you'd be willing to show your favorite church ladies who'd ooh and ahh, and all the while, using the mere efforts and abilities of a two year old.

This year I wanted to try coming up with egg dyes on our own using natural ingredients, so we put on our alchemists' hats and had a little chemistry lesson. I did some preparatory research with
my family alchemist and learned that there are a ton of things you probably already have in your house to use for making egg dyes:

Tumeric, blueberry tea, beet juice, black tea, red onions, and some regular store bought egg coloring, just in case none of this worked and the kids were completely disappointed.

You basically boil whatever food stuffs you want to try in regular old water until the process steeps out the natural dyes into the water. I figured out that pretty much anything that stains your fingers is gonna make a good egg dye and some things that don't might work too. We had three small saucepans going on the stove top and a giant teapot of boiling water. Some of the things, like the ground tumeric and teas, I figured could just be put in a bowl and have boiling water added to it from the teapot. It would probably have worked better if I'd been able to boil each item by itself in a separate saucepan, but there are limited spaces on my cooktop.

Let's talk measuring: I didn't. I basically just walked around like a potions teacher from Hogwarts, leaning down and smelling things, amidst ribbons of steam twirling around my head, stirring and adding and inspecting until each thing met my very technical qualifications of
That Looks Right. If the infusion of something started to look a little weak, I added more foodstuffs, if I didn't think the volume of water would cover an egg, I added more water. It was all very precise.

Using the add a few teaspoons of vinegar to make the colors more vibrant theory I'd learned from commercial egg dye kits, I added a tablespoon of white vinegar to each bowl. I'd also read somewhere on the Interweb that you should add a little bit of salt too, so I stirred in about an eighth of a teaspoon to each bowl. I have no idea if either of these things made a difference. What I did learn is that the colder you let your liquids get, the less effective they are. I'd made the executive decision that we should let all the liquid cool down a bit so if they got spilled they wouldn't scald me anyone. But then we ended up having to boil more water to add to each bowl when it reached the temperature where the dyes stopped working. We boiled and bubbled until we had a nice selection of options:

and then commenced egg dying.
I'll stop right here and say that we didn't find anything to get those unnaturally bright Paas Easter egg colors, but what we did end up with was so much more interesting and surprising, that I'm going on record right now and declaring the whole project a success. The red onion peels, for example, came out more green than anything else. The beets, turned the eggs such a lovely shade of pinkish gray that I might be inclined to use on the walls in my bedroom. I think the most interesting thing was having no idea how the colors would come out and being surprised by the results. Here are some of our creations:

Left to right: tumeric, black tea, blueberry tea

The beet juice eggs came out very subtle with an unexpected lovely crackled or speckled texture, depending on the makeup of the eggshell. I was having a fight with my camera so this doesn't do it justice. There's a better picture of the crackle texture in the group shot above.

We also experimented with textures. I sent The Dormouse out into the wild to gather vegetation and we used some weeds and flowers to imprint a pattern on some of the eggs. We stuck the whole thing in a re-purposed nylon stocking and tied off the ends after placing the plant in with the egg.

Left, another blueberry tea egg with the leaf from a weed; Right, red onion skins with grass blades and fern fronds

I had way more fun with these and enjoyed the end result so much more than any of those dye kits that promise vivid or neon colors. I can also think of a host of other things to try to make other colors. We actually had bought carrots to try and use, but forgot they were in the fridge and never boiled them up. Maybe next Sunday?

I do know I'm done buying those kits.

Next up: Deviled Eggs for dinner.