When I was a kid, in the chemical-intensive 1960s and 1970s, we thought nothing of using artificial food coloring and those little dye tablets to give our Easter eggs festive hues. Back then, we didn’t know that chemical dyes could cause ADHD, harm development, ignite hyperactivity, compromise immune systems and cause sterility. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention even found links between food coloring and asthma, allergic reactions and lead poisoning, Brianne DiSylvester reports in Organic Authority. I’m not taking the risk, especially when dying eggs with herbs and food is so much more fun.
Herbal dye plants, used traditionally to color fibers, give hard-boiled eggs an earthier tone than never-from-nature candy-colored synthetics. Just follow these simple instructions from the experts at Herb Companion for gorgeous, nontoxic, festive Easter eggs.
- Hard boil eggs.
- Bring each dye ingredient (listed below) to a boil with 2 cups of water; strain the dyes into cups and allow to cool.
- Add 2 tablespoons of vinegar to each cup of dye.
- Dip the eggs into the cups, submerging each egg completely until it reaches an appealing color. Leave eggs in the dye longer for deeper colors. If one color doesn’t darken as you’d like, set the cup with the dye and the egg in the refrigerator for a few hours. Try using two different dyes on one egg to create different colors, or dye half of each egg in a different color.
Gold: Handful of yellow onion skins
Yellow: 2 tablespoons turmeric, 1/2 cup dried marigolds, goldenrod or cosmos, or a handful of carrot tops
Green: Handful of coltsfoot
Blue: Handful of woad or 2 cups chopped red cabbage*
Pink: 2 cups chopped beets
Purple: 1 cup frozen blueberries
Brown: 2 tablespoons coffee grounds or 4 black tea bags
* For best results with this color, add botanicals to the water while cooking eggs.
Natural dyes from herbs and food give eggs a more subtle, natural hue.