When I wrote about natural egg dyes last spring, I’d just started blogging and I felt compelled to go on a bit about the dangers of artificial food colors. A year later, my position on petrochemical dyes is, um, well-documented. So now I’ll just focus on the fun stuff.
The web is awash in tutorials on natural dyes, including this great simple piece from What’s Cooking with Kids. For more detailed techniques and color effects, check out Martha Stewart and KitchenGardener. Onion skins make gorgeous colors, as shown on these Passover eggs and wrapped eggs.
Green can be tricky, but Kris Bordessa of Attainable Sustainable wrote in Kiwi magazine about using chlorophyll capsules (three capsules to one cup of boiling water). And Melissa Graham of Little Locavores shared in a comment on this Spoonfed post that red wine makes a killer purple. Sparkly, too. But the wine has to be freshly opened, so, you know, get drinking while the kids are dunking.
My contribution to this seasonal fare? An eggsperiment, excerpted from last year’s post, in which I used natural dyes to make fake vs. real more tangible for my daughter:
It’s Easter. Time to color eggs. Why not use fruits and vegetables to dye them naturally? And have a little plant-science lesson on the side? Out came the neon dye tablets leftover from last year. (We dyed. We did not eat.) Then the test tubes from a science kit. Plop, plop, fizz, fizz — oh what a fake color that is.
Me to Tess: “Have you ever seen colors like that in nature?”
Tess: a dutiful grimace and shake of the head.
On to the stove, where we filled pots with eggs, water and various fruits, vegetables and juices. (Here’s where I direct you to folks more kitchen-crafty than me, so you, too, can experience the joy of boiling eggs along with beets and blueberry juice.)
We used brown eggs (instead of the recommended white eggs), so the colors were unpredictable. The beets produced a warm dark brown. Spinach didn’t take at all. The blueberry juice, however, made a deep purple that got a “cool” out of my daughter. And because she really wants pink eggs, we’re going to try another batch with raspberry or pomegranate juice.
As each pot filled with the color of the cooking produce, we talked about how plants have so many beautiful natural colors and how each color represents nutrients our bodies need. With color extracts literally seeping into the water, there was no question at all where they came from, or that we can find all the color we need without putting on a lab coat.
Not that Tess was entirely sold. After my little lesson, she informed me that she preferred fake dyes “because I like the pretty colors.” But, she did add (dramatic pause): “We don’t have to eat them.” That was a year ago, though, and for whatever reason she’s back on board. (Maybe because when her class at school did the natural-dye thing last week, they got great results. Like the blue egg at right.) And this year we snagged some white and pastel eggs from our local farmers, so I’ll see if I can dazzle her with more vibrant colors this time.
And, at the least, we’ll have chocolate. Because in addition to the additive-free candy I ordered, I’ll be making chocolate bunny pops using this fantastic recipe from Food with Kid Appeal. The ingredients? Coconut butter, coconut oil, raw honey, almond butter, cacao powder, cinnamon, cayenne pepper and sea salt. I haven’t even made them yet, and already I’m addicted.
Are you dyeing eggs? Making treats? Otherwise prepping for visits of the bunny kind?
Spoonfed is now on Facebook. You’ll find links to blog posts, news and commentary on raising food-literate kids, questions and comments from readers, voices, viewpoints, the works. Stop by, like the page, chime in, spread the word. (Thanks.)