“Colouring your own Easter eggs is fun and if you’ve got some kids around to entertain, it’s de rigueur! I think artificial food colourings are kind of brash, and much prefer the softer, subtler hues natural plants and spices give to eggshells. If garden space permits, why not grow some of the plants you’ll need to naturally colour your eggs?”
Those good old dark red ones impart the best colour. The leafy tops are tasty for human or hen, too.
These fruit-bearing shrubs are fantastic for birds, bees, humans and hens, while the berries give a soft blue hue to white eggs and make blue eggs bluer!
BLACKBERRIES AND RASPBERRIES:
The fruit is extremely tasty and a great natural dye too; the leaves are medicinal for humans and hens alike. In spring, when canes are leafing out, supply some protection as that’s when foliage is most tempting to hens (see Tall Fences Make Good Neighbours, page 9).
PURPLE OR RED CABBAGE:
Use the tough outer leaves for dyeing—if you’ve got any left over from the late fall harvest—and keep the centre for eating. White eggs will turn a soft red.
The boiled skins give off a pinkish-red colour to white-shelled eggs.
This fall-blooming true crocus can be grown as far north as Zone 5. Plant it out of reach of hens; it’s considered toxic for them. Harvest the stigma for drying and turning into saffron threads; use in cooking and for lending eggs a soft yellowish red.
Boil up and mush spinach for a soft pastel green. But until that Easter Egg Garden is flourishing, the grocery store has everything you need to make pretty, soft and subtle eggs this Easter:
MORE DYE POSSIBILITIES:
It’s easy to dye beautiful backyard eggs with natural colourings—spices, foods and even homegrown herbs and vegetables—but the effect is much more subtle than you might be accustomed to, and if you only have brown eggs, you won’t see much change; best to start with white eggs.
Before you get started, it’s important to wash backyard eggs to remove the bloom, as it will repel the dye a fair bit. Natural dyes result in softer, subtler colours, so don’t expect Day-Glo orange; think pretty pastels.
Add 1 tablespoon (15 mL) white vinegar to each cup (250 mL) of water added to the colouring pot. Because the vinegar is an acid, it actually etches into the calcium of the shell, providing a rougher, more porous surface for the dye to soak into.
Add the colouring agent of your choice to the pot and bring to a simmer until you like the colour of the water.
Once you’re happy with the colour of your water, add the raw eggs and cook, until hard-boiled. Don’t take them out of the coloured water to cool; leave them in the dye bath for as long as you want, though after 24 hours, chances are the dye has given all it has to give.
Take the eggs out and let them drip dry on a cooling rack over a pan, old newspapers or a tea towel you don’t mind getting all splattered with dye.
Once your pretty dyed eggs are perfectly dry, buff them up all shiny with a bit of vegetable oil and a dry cloth.