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Mar 232010

By Melissa Segrest
Green Right Now

Do you want a more Earth-friendly Easter? Start with the star of the annual hunt – the egg.

Eggs soaking with onion skins, a natural dye bath

Eggs soaking in a natural dye bath of onion skins

Don’t cop out and run to the grocery store to buy the same old brand-name eggs. Do a little
homework and find a farmer’s market or farm in your region. Then you can start with local, organic eggs with a miniscule carbon footprint. Check out Local Harvest to find nearby farms, or search the web for farms in your area.

Even if you grew up using the grocery-store egg-dying kit, you can give your kids a healthy, eco-friendly holiday by using food, tea, even flowers to give their eggs new hues. And while Easter is a Christian celebration, these recipes work just as well for secular celebrations of spring or as Passover eggs. (See these beautiful creations at a Jewish parenting blog.)

There are numerous suggested ways to go about creating natural colors and dyeing eggs. Some say create the dyes first by crushing ingredients – everything from blueberries to coffee, beets to spinach — and adding water to cover the eggs. Too much water will, well, water down the dye.

Some chefs suggest you heat the food, water and eggs together. Others say cook the eggs first, then let them steep in cooled dyes. Another chef recommends you cook the eggs, then soak them in the dyes made earlier, each in a separate pot. Some eggs may need to sit in their dye overnight, while others will absorb color faster.

There is no consistent amount of water and food called for in the recipes.

There is unanimous agreement on the need for a bit of vinegar, the use of either fresh or frozen organic fruits and vegetables, and sufficient soaking time. And all the recipes say you’ll need to do some experimenting.

Here are a few we found:

  • The Crunchy Domestic Goddess provides lots of options for egg-dyeing day; offering a list of how to obtain blue, red, orange, yellow and tan eggs using coffee grounds, blueberries, cans of cherries, red cabbage, beets and tumeric.
  • Here’s an easy-to-follow formula using natural dyes made from blueberries, cranberries, red cabbage, beets and other veggies, with vinegar added to set the dyes. It includes a page with both recipes and a chart of foods/colors).
Any type of brightly colored fruit such as blueberries can be used to dye eggs

Any type of brightly colored fruit such as blueberries can be used to dye eggs

We recommend you study and synthesize your own recipe from all or some of the above.

You can find directions on how to wrap red or yellow onion skins around eggs to boil together – and transfer their colors.

These eggs aren’t going to be as deeply colored or shiny as those made with pre-packaged dyes, but these natural colors are more interesting and you won’t need to worry about additives or chemicals in the dye. You can add a little shine with a thin coating of lightweight organic cooking oil that you towel off after a few hours.

Get a tie-dye look by wrapping rubber bands around the eggs before you place them in the dye. The kids can use crayons or wax pencils to create designs on the boiled eggs that won’t absorb dye.

Oh, and this stuff will stain most everything – your clothes, the counters, the kids. Better haul out the aprons and newspapers.

Feeling crafty? Grown-ups might enjoy making tea-infused marbleized looking eggs. Cook the eggs, and let them cool. Gently crack the shells all around the egg, but don’t let the shell pull away from the egg. Then let them simmer in strong black tea (and some herbs if you want a bit of scent). Let the eggs cool. Wait to remove the shell until you are about to serve them. A pretty good looking home for some deviled eggs, eh? (We credit Ellen Easton at the What’s Cooking America website for this recipe.)

If all this sounds like too much work, click over to Eco-Kids’ Eco-Eggs Easter Egg Coloring kit, $10. Their dyes are made from purple sweet potato, paprika, red cabbage, blueberries and more. They even include soy crayons instead of regular crayons.

The official White House eggs for 2010's egg roll are made of sustainable wood.

Souvenir White House eggs for 2010's egg roll are made of sustainable wood.

There are still other egg options:

Eggs made of wood must be trendy, because they are the source of this year’s Official White House Easter Egg Roll eggs. The event, hosted by President Barack and First Lady Michelle Obama, has a health and wellness theme. At the egg roll on April 5, there also will be activities to encourage kids to eat healthy and be active. You can buy souvenir White House eggs made of sustainable hardwood (complete with official seal and stamped signatures from the President and First Lady). Shop quickly – they may sell out.

There are other cute wooden eggs out there, from a pint-sized half-dozen wooden eggs by Haba for $10 to a bagful of unpainted wooden eggs from craft stores. You can decorate them with organic paint. Even if they’re not made from sustainably harvested wood, these are eggs your family can hold onto for many Easters to come. Consider them future heirloom eggs.

You say you’ve still got dozens of plastic eggs from previous Earth-unfriendly Easters? Just keep using them. They’re not going to deteriorate, and if you keep recycling them they will at least serve a useful purpose for future hunts.

(Need a container for your eggs? See our story on creative, eco-friendly Easter baskets.)

Copyright © 2009 Green Right Now | Distributed by GRN Network

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