Finding a natural solution
KyLynn Hull is a freelance writer who dabbles in many things including writing, urban farming and raising backyard chickens. She writes regularly for garden and food blog, Green City Garden Girl - Bound by the Seasons.
After feeling a little worse for wear this week when my 4-year-old son busted out his front teeth following a downhill face-plant at the zoo, we (or rather me) decided we needed some cheering up. In lieu of babying him until his face hurt again, I decided we would color eggs using foods rather than chemical dyes. These Eco-egg dyes were a fun alternative to the store-bought ones and more interesting to prepare.
First, we gathered up all our special ingredients including red cabbage, canned beets, yellow onion skins, grape juice and vinegar. The beets (pink) and the grape juice (purple) required no cooking and were the easiest to put together. (They were also the best things to eat, and both Elias and I ate beets and drank grape juice after putting what we needed into our bowls.)
We used red cabbage, canned beets, yellow onion skins, grape juice and vinegar to naturally color our eggs. Photo By KyLynn Hull.
Next was to peel the skins off the onions and put them into a saucepan. We added water and vinegar and let it cook for about 45 minutes. In another saucepan, we cut a purple cabbage in half and separated each piece. This was Elias' favorite part because it was like undoing a puzzle. We added all the cabbage, water and vinegar and cooked it for about 45 minutes.
Elias separating the cabbage leaves. Photo By KyLynn Hull.
After cooking, we strained the juice and cooled it down. Once cooled, we started adding eggs into our natural concoction to start the coloring of the pretty, white eggs. We dumped the eggs semi-equally into our mismatched bowls and kept them soaking for what only needed to be a half hour, but we decided to keep them in throughout the afternoon.
What we found was the purple cabbage and yellow onion skins produced the deepest colors. The beet produced the lightest and the grape juice was somewhere in between. We even messed around with coffee grounds, but they didn't turn brown. (We used recycled coffee grounds; we're thinking next time using fresh coffee grounds and maybe boil it.) Also, the longer we let them soak didn't necessarily make them sharper colors. In fact, over time, the dyes seemed to dissipate and the eggs would barely color.
Right to left: purple cabbage, yellow onion skin, grape juice, coffee grounds, misc and beets. Photo By KyLynn Hull.
Elias enjoying the leftover "grape juice dye." Photo By KyLynn Hull.
We've got some good ideas for next time: blueberries, raspberries, blackberries and spinach. We'll keep you posted on our findings.
Here's the gist. We cooked and soaked them longer than these guidelines.
• PINK: 1 cup beet juice, 2 cups water and 1 tablespoon vinegar; combine in bowl
• PURPLE: 1 cup grape juice, 2 cups water and 1 tablespoon vinegar; combine
• ORANGE: Onion skins peeled from two yellow onions, 2 cups water and 1 tablespoon vinegar; combine in sauce pan and boil for 1/2 hour. Strain and cool.
• BLUE: Half red cabbage, leaves separated (my son's favorite part—taking apart a puzzle), 2 cups water and 1 tablespoon vinegar; combine in sauce pan and boil for 1/2 hour. Strain and cool.
• BROWN: Coffee grounds (pre-steeped), 2 cups water and 1 tablespoon vinegar; boil and cool