Every year at Easter the children and I enjoy using natural dyes for Easter Eggs. We started doing this years ago, when my oldest was enrolled in a Waldorf enrichment program. When they told us to use natural materials to dye the eggs I thought it was kind of silly, after all food coloring is cheap and easy! But once I did it once I was hooked, since it is fun to see the amazing variety of colors that can come from nature. It is the perfect Easter chemistry project, and the results are always bright and colorful.
To make the dye we boiled our chosen material in water for about 20 minutes, and then strained the water, cooled it, added a 1 t. of vinegar and then soaked hard boiled eggs in it overnight in the refrigerator. I love that the colors are not always what you would expect, and not necessarily the color of the material you are using. Here are our creations this year!
Red Cabbage Eggs
This is always one of the best natural dyes, and gives a gorgeous blue color. We made both light and dark blue this year. The dark blue ones I left in the dye for 2 days instead of just overnight, and they were a deep rich blue. I was worried they might have a cabbage taste due to soaking in the juice so long, but they tasted fine.
Carrot Top Eggs
Carrots are orange and the tops are green, but eggs made from green carrot tops are yellow. I was surprised at how bright this yellow was, since I was expecting a pastel color.
Onion Skin Eggs
I have made eggs from yellow onion skins before, but this year I wanted to try red onions too. The eggs still turned out orange, but the ones made with red onions were a darker orange. These eggs don’t need to soak overnight, because the dye is so strong. I actually put raw eggs in the pot with the onion skins, and by the time they are hard boiled they are dyed also.
Grape Juice Eggs
We wanted purple eggs, so we decided to try grape juice. For these we just soaked the eggs in grape juice for a few hours. We were expecting purple, but instead we got speckled purple. It turns out grape juice is so acidic that it reacts with the egg shell and starts dissolving it! These were pretty even if they weren’t what we were expecting.
Beet Juice Eggs
Red eggs are pretty, so we decided to try beets this year to get a red color. The eggs turned out more pink than red, and a little speckled, but still nice. Considering how much beets stain my hands and cutting boards I was surprised this color wasn’t deeper.
I have tried multiple times to make green eggs with natural dyes with no success. Many sources say spinach will work, but it doesn’t for me! So this year I decided to use a sheet of Nori from a sushi kit, and I finally got green eggs. It was a very pale green that didn’t photograph well, but it was green!
So add some fun chemistry to your Easter celebrations this year and give natural dyes a try. With Easter so late this year using natural dyes is a great way to combine Easter and Earth Day!