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Easter eggs colored with natural dyes

Natural Dyes

Flowers, leaves, plants, spices, fruits and vegetables have been used for centuries to add color to raw wool, cloth, or paper. Some can even be used to dye hair or make inks, and women have used natural dyes as cosmetics for centuries.

RED can be obtained from red fruits (fresh or frozen) like cranberries or beets. Raspberries or strawberries create PINK. YELLOW comes from onion skins or bay leaves. BLUE can be obtained from blueberries. PURPLE comes from red cabbage leaves. Tea bags or coffee grounds will create TAN. GREEN is created from the skins of red onions. And there are many more possibilities.

Natural Easter Eggs

The most common way to use natural dyes at home is to color Easter eggs. The method is about the same as using food coloring.

  • Color eggs that have first been hard boiled and cooled.

  • Use stainless steel or glass containers to mix the dyes.

  • Add messages or drawings on the eggs with crayon and the dye will not stick there.

  • Add vinegar to each dye so the color will stick to the eggsshell.

  • Keeping the eggs in the dye longer will result in a deeper color.

Only three colors are required to dye eggs: red, blue and yellow. Many colors can be created by mixing these three. You can mix colors in separate containers ahead of time, or you can dip an egg in yellow first then in the red to create one that is orange - or mix yellow and blue to make green, or red and blue to make purple. Most of us have dipped an egg too many times and ended up with an unappetizing shade of brown.

Eggs that are dyed with food coloring are safe to eat. So are eggs that are dyed with fruits or vegetables. Eggs should not be eaten by people who suffer from hayfever if the dye color came from grass, most flowers, and many trees (see Hayfever Triggers below). Nuts should not be used to dye food since many people have nut allergies. And, many plants, leaves and flowers are poisonous so it is best to stick with foods dyes in coloring eggs.

Hayfever Triggers

  • Most flowers (including chamomile).

  • Trees: pine, oak, birch, alder, cypress, cedar, hazel, hornbeam, horse chestnut, willow, poplar, plane, linden/lime, maple, elm, mulberry, pecan, and olive.

  • Grasses: most, especially ryegrass and timothy.

  • Weeds: ragweed, plantain, nettle/parietaria, mugwort, Fat hen, and sorrel/dock.

Egg Dye Recipes

Rosalind Creasy of Edible Gardening says to "combine the ingredients and boil each color mixture separately for 15 minutes before dyeing eggs. For uniform color, strain each dye mixture through cheesecloth or a fine strainer. For a mottled, tie-dyed or spotty effect, leave all the ingredients in the pans." Here are her recipes for the three main colors.


2 cups beets, grated
1 tbsp white vinegar
2 cups water
Substitute: strong Red Zinger tea, or chopped fresh or frozen cranberries


3 large handfuls of yellow/brown onion skins
1 tbsp white vinegar
3 cups water
Substitute: strong chamomile tea [a hayfever trigger], or 2 to 3 tbsp ground turmeric


1 pound frozen blueberries, crushed
1 tbsp white vinegar
2 cups water
Substitute: red cabbage leaves, coarsely chopped, create lavender

Dyes for Cloth or Paper

Coloring cloth or paper can be done with dyes made even from poisonous plants (if you must) if you use rubber gloves and dispose of any unused dye away from groundwater sources, areas where animals or kids play, and gardens. Do your research in advance to see if your natural material is poisonous or not.

Staining Cloth or Paper

Farmers put their biggest and best fruit up for sale as ready to eat. Fruit that is too small or not so pretty gets used in jams. Fruit that has fallen on the ground can have E. coli if animals recently or ever pooped on that ground so it is not allowed in food dishes or medicines. But fallen fruit, like plums, is great for coloring cloth or paper. In the case of plums, the skin is the part actually used for staining.

Do Your Research

There are sites on the internet that contain lists of plants and their colors, and more instructions on how to create and use dyes.

If you do not have access to plant materials or just want a quicker way, most packaged teas or tea bags will create one color or another. For example hibiscus tea is deep red. Many sites even sell natural dye powders.

Also, check for "recipes," since they vary. Salt is usally used with fruit, and vinegar is usually used with flowers, leaves or plants.

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