03 April 2015

Dye! Dye! Dye!

When I was young I used to love dyeing eggs. Every year it would be a huge production, resulting in masses of vividly coloured springtime fertility symbols. Fast forward a couple of decades and things aren't what they used to be. Holidays aren't as big of a deal anymore, in part because there are fewer of us than there used to be. I still love dyeing eggs, although I've had to scale way back. Where my mom and I used to colour dozens of eggs, this year I had to limit myself to 18 eggs total--and I only used that many because I wanted to get a good variety of colours.

That was a mistake.

The last few years I've been experimenting with natural dyes. My theory was why use chemicals when nature provides? Well, it turns out that sometimes nature kind of sucks. The colours are muddy. There's no shine. The flaws on the eggshells are emphasized. It's a lot of (stinky) work for disappointing results.

This year was extra disappointing because I'd had some high hopes for potential new colours. Besides the two natural colours I already knew worked (turmeric for yellow and red cabbage for blue), I decided to also try the supposedly proven suggestions from a blog that shall remain unnamed. I should have known that her information was crap when I saw the bright, smooth colours on her eggs--there was no way those came from natural dyes. But hindsight is 20/20 and I'm a trusting soul (why would anybody lie about their egg-dyeing methods?) who lives in hope. Based on her advice, I used spinach for green, grape juice for purple, and beets for pink. Do you see any green, purple, or pink eggs below?

The grape juice resulted in a weird blackish shade. The beets, although producing a gorgeous red liquid, tuned the eggs the colour of natural brown eggs. The spinach was so obviously useless I just ended up putting those eggs into the red cabbage liquid since I knew that would at least work. After a lot of boiling and soaking and draining and drying--and a huge mess--I ended up with 18 dull and patchy springtime fertility symbols.

The experimenting is over. Next year I'm going back to commercial chemical dyes. I will have reds, greens, bright blues, yellows that won't have turmeric residue stuck to them. I'll be able to shine them with oil because the oil won't wipe the weak colour right off. It will be glorious and festive and might even inspire me to revive some of the other childhood traditions that have fallen by the wayside. And from now on, I'm going to be a lot more skeptical about what I read online.

From L to R for the three eggs in front: beet juice, red cabbage, turmeric

I my vintage egg dish

Toward the back, between a brownish beet egg and a blue egg, you can see the result of wasting grape juice to try to colour eggs.


Blue Lotus said...

I've always suspected natural dyes would suck and/or be too much bother so have never tried. But those actually look really nice! Especially the blue and yellow. I think you should keep trying! Or maybe use chemical dye for decorative eggs and the natural dye for eggs to be eaten?

Aspasia said...

@Blue Lotus The blue and yellow shades are nice but the colour ends up patchy and the yellow ones have turmeric residue all over them (that you can't wipe off without wiping the colour off too). I don't think the chemical dyes are an issue for eating unless they get through the shell.