Learning to color Easter eggs the natural way--using vegetables, plants and spices as dye and design materials--can change your family's annual egg-dipping ritual.
This year, instead of dissolving commercial dye tablets, set out pans of boiling water and fill them with stain-producing foods such as spinach, beets, saffron and paprika.
Using the following tips from the Pratt Center in New Milford, Conn., you can experiment with making and mixing food-induced dyes and designing imprints with ferns, leaves, clovers and pine needles.
"The longer you let the material boil or sit in the water, the more color comes out into the water," says Jean Dougherty, the nature center's environmental educator.
Materials and Equipment
* Food-staining vegetables
* Spices or plants for dying and making imprints
* Pots, water and spoons
* Nylon stockings or cheesecloth cut into 5- to 6-inch lengths
* Rubber bands or twisties
* Alum (found in supermarket spice racks) or white vinegar to set color
* Salad oil
* Paper towels or soft cloths.
* Red onion skins: pale blue.
* Yellow onion skins: yellow to golden hue.
* Saffron or tumeric: bright yellow.
* Red cabbage: shades of blue.
* Spinach leaves: pale green.
* Paprika: rusty brown.
* Frozen blueberries: pale gray-blue.
1. Prepare eggs by cleaning carefully with a solution of 1 tablespoon of white vinegar to 1 cup of water.
2. Cut up vegetables or prepare spices used for dying. Place several cups of vegetables or teaspoons of spices in their own enamel or glass pots and cover with at least three inches of water. Add one teaspoon of alum or white vinegar to each to set the dye. Boil for at least one hour to extract color. For more intense colors, use more vegetables or spices and boil longer.
3. Prepare designs on eggs by placing ferns, clovers, flowers or pine needles on the surface of the egg. Attach by wrapping eggs in cut-up nylon stockings or cheesecloth, secured at either end by twisties or rubber bands. The twisties will leave little star imprints.
4. Place unboiled eggs into dye pots; boil for at least 20 minutes, turning often to prevent spotting.
5. Remove eggs and allow to dry, again turning often to prevent spotting. When dry, remove netting and plant materials and lightly buff with soft cloth or paper towel soaked in salad oil.