Saturday, March 20, 2010

Dyeing to be natural

Going Green Mama admits to still getting a little nostalgic seeing the Paas Easter kits in the store....

On an errand the other day, my daughter was thrilled to find packages of brightly colored plastic eggs. You know, the kind that get separated and stepped on within hours of the great hunt. There were plain ones. Flowered ones. Football ones. She was hooked.

And I said no.

Granted, in nearly five years of parenthood, I've yet to succumb to buying plastic eggs. For one, my mother has a set she's willing to part with each spring. For another, it's just another thing to store - or step on. (If you haven't guessed, it's a problem in our home.)

But as my children get a little older, I'm starting to wonder if this isn't the year to try dyeing Easter eggs. I remember year after year fighting over who put their eggs into which color with my brother, and, about as vividly, the vinegary smell the room took on as those little colored pellets dissolved. And I remember my parents complaining about the mess.

I wondered if the "natural dye" method is a better way, and started to look into it last year. It may be less smellier, but it seems a bit more complicated. You either are working many pots on the stove, each boiling eggs with its natural color dye of choices, or you soak those eggs overnight with the natural dyes. Either way, you run the risk of having "off-flavored" eggs - such as onion or spinach - if you eat them after the hunt. And it doesn't seem to have the instant-gratification factor that preschoolers desire.

So I leave the question to you this morning. When you're getting ready to dye eggs in a few weeks, what method to you choose? Commercial? Natural? And why?


Erin aka Conscious Shopper said...

I've promised myself to try the natural method this year. I've been eying this kit from imagine childhood, but probably won't buy it because of the price.

Another idea that's more of a question...If you use the method where you blow out the eggs first, is it then fine to use the commercial kits? (Because you wouldn't be eating chemically laden eggs.)

A couple years ago, my oldest and I got adventurous, blew out the eggs, sterilized the shells, and then filled them with melted chocolate. It was a lot of work, but pretty cool.

Kellie said...

We have some food coloring at home for making playdough, so we'll be using that and some vinegar. I'll call it a cross between home made and store bought. ;)

Jessica Nichols said...

My son is 6 and we haven't dyed eggs yet. I struggle every spring with this too. I wish I had more insight.

Easter is not a big holiday for me or my husband, and let's face it, moms generally put on the holiday shenanigans, so therefore it isn't a big deal for him. I haven't consistently put together a basket for him although I think I have managed to take him to an egg hunt each year.

I got fed up a few years back when some in my online mom's group were putting dvds, fancy toys, etc. in the baskets. When I grew up it was simple: one hollow chocolate bunny, one stuffed animal and some other thematic candy. Not $50 worth of gifts! And I was fine, not deprived.

Djuna said...

We dye them with natural stuff at room temperature... it's not as complex as you made it sound - you don't need to soak them overnight, beet juice dyes just as fast as commercial dye, for example. Others you just need to soak a bit longer (let's say 10 min?). We bided the time by using crayon to draw things on our next egg - the dye doesn't dye the egg where you've drawn (crayons that match the egg color are particularly cool).

Susan from Practically Green said...

For those who want natural, but can't figure out the DIY approach, I just saw a new egg dying kit in Whole Foods and checked it out online at eco-kids. The packaging is compostable and the dyes are all natural. Here's the link:

Truffula said...

We've been using the food coloring and vinegar method ourselves. We usually decorate some of the eggs with crayons before dipping them into the color. My DH has commented that the ACV I use on my hair reminds him of dyeing Easter eggs - LOL!

susanna eve said...

we use food colouring and vinegar along with decorating them with crayola markers.
You aren't eating the shells anyways. And for us, the food dyes are something we have in the cupboard and don't get used up for years and years. We also have plastic eggs but have been using the same ones for more than 5 years. I bought a metal one this year full of sweet tarts for my daughter's easter basket.
I worry a lot more about all the chemicals in the brightly coloured candy and each year want to buy fair trade foil covered eggs but can't get them except for horrendous prices online.

Rosa said...

We've done natural egg dyes for a long time. I have to say, for little kids just using crayons (or crayons and then dyeing with beet or turmeric afterward, so they can see it the next day) is a lot more satisfying.

Grownups are more willing to appreciate the sort of subtle colors that come from the natural dyes :)

One year, we made such a mess my roomate went ahead and dyed all our shirts with turmeric or beet, depending how it was already splattered. It lasted for a LONG time, too.

Tracy said...

Whenever I dyed eggs with my mom as a kid, we always poked holes in each end and blew out the egg from the shell. That way we didn't have to worry about hardboiled eggs getting icky -- we'd just eat a lot of scrambled eggs the next two days :)

One thing we did a few years ago was dye eggshells using onion skins. We went outside and found small pretty leaves and used pieces of old pantyhose and rubberbands to secure the leaves in position on the eggshell while we simmered them in onion skin water. When you take the eggs out, they're a beautiful brownish color and the parts that were covered by leaves are a pale yellow! So pretty and so cool.

sabrina said...

I love dyeing eggs with beets, onions, spinach ect! I did it with girlfriends a few years ago. I haven't tried it with kids (my stepson is over egg dyeing) but imagine it would also work as a great science lesson.

Robbie said...

Erin - you'll have to post how you did the chocolate eggs. Sounds interesting!

Jessica, I agree! It was simpler when we were growing up. We're giving a coloring book, seeds for my oldest, a book for my youngest and likely a few small candies. Nothing major. Honestly, I think it's all in the expectations you set as a family!

Djuna, good to know. Everything I'd read implied it took much longer to take.

Glad to read all the comments that say the "natural" process isn't as complicated, smelly or messy as I'd originally read!

Jaime said...

Just saw Mother Earth News has posted a how-to article on using natural dyes:

Condo Blues said...

Last year I tried turmeric and papkria both worked well and my eggs didn't taste funny. I also used food coloring and vinegar method which also worked well. It was the first time I used food coloring as a kid we bought the kits that were... food coloring in tablet form. My mom would have saved a lot of money using what we already had.


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