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Colors to Dye For

eieren-bilogisch-kleurenSpring has sprung and with Easter upon us the time is perfect for some eggs-periments! This year why not try some fruit and vegetable dyes? You can get some really vibrant and surprising colors from a few items at the grocery store.

First a little history
Even before the first Easter, eggs were the symbol of new life and fertility. For thousands of years various cultures have decorated eggs to celebrate spring. Christians usurped the tradition and first dyed eggs red to represent Christ’s blood when he was crucified.

Who know how this led to an egg-laying rabbit but the eggs these days are more likely to resemble jellybeans. Let’s go back to the roots of springtime and borrow some color from Mother Nature instead.

Next a little science
So how does the dye stick to the egg anyway? The key is the vinegar. Whenever you dye eggs, either with natural dyes or the tablets form the store, you need to add an acid, in this case, vinegar. Vinegar is also known as acetic acid. The acidic vinegar reacts with the calcium carbonate in the eggshell and releases carbon dioxide. Look carefully when you dye your eggs and you will see the bubbles. (For more, check out this investigation of vinegar and egg dye)

What you need
Grab some water, white vinegar and at least a cup of each of the following, depending on what colors you are aiming for.

  • Red/Pink: chopped or pickled beets, red onion skins
  • Orange: yellow onion skins, paprika (2 tablespoons)
  • Yellow: grated carrot, turmeric (2 tablespoons)
  • Green: chopped spinach, chopped fennel tops
  • Blue: crushed blueberries (frozen works best), chopped red cabbage
  • Purple: purple grapes (or use juice and don’t add water)
  • Brown/Tan: tea or coffee grounds

Make the dye
In a saucepan, mix your dye matter (from the list above) with 4 cups of water and bring it all to a boil. Cover the pot and let it simmer for 15 to 30 minutes, depending on how dark you want your eggs. The dye will be a few shades darker than the eggs.

Pour the dye through a strainer into a bowl. Add 1 tablespoon of vinegar for each cup of strained liquid and let the dye cool before using.

Dye the eggs
Place white, hardboiled eggs in the dye so that they are completely covered. Let them sit in the cool dye until they are the desired color. This may take up to 30 minutes so you can be preparing another color of dye while you dye the first set of eggs.

This is the fun part. Here are some ideas for eggs-perimenting with color and dyes while coloring your eggs:

How much vinegar? Vinegar is used to help the dye stick to the eggs. Do the eggs dye more quickly if you use more vinegar? What happens if you use less or no vinegar at all? Use pH strips to measure the acidity of your dye and find the perfect pH for egg dying.

Other acids? Can you use another acid besides vinegar? Try lemon juice, pineapple juice or crush aspirin in the water. Coffee and tea are also naturally acidic. (Check out this article for ideas)

Feel the heat. Does the temperature of your dye affect how quickly or how dark the eggs dye? Try dying eggs in the refrigerator, at room temperature and with warm dye.

Mix the dyes. Take some yellow turmeric dye and mix it with some blue red cabbage dye to make green. What other colors can you make?

What other fruits, vegetables and spices can you use? Go through the pantry and give it a try!

Multi task your eggs. Since both the eggs and the dye are boiled before putting them together, why not skip a step and boil your eggs and dye in the same pot. Make sure to add the vinegar first so that the color sticks to the eggs.

Try brown eggs. Do brown eggs dye the same way as white eggs?   Dye both color eggs at the same time and see how the color comes out.

Resist the dye. Use rubber bands and crayons to create patterns on the eggs. The areas that are covered will stay white. Or double/triple dip your eggs to create a pattern in different colors.

More than eggs. Eggs aren’t the only items we color with dye. Pull out a white t-shirt and see if the dye can be used to color fabric. Tie-dye anyone?