Spring is here! The Vernal Equinox – when the light of day and night are equally balanced – has shifted and the days are growing longer and brighter as we rush toward Summer.
Since humans have had to live in harmony with nature, it is only natural that at this time of year every culture has a Spring celebration. From Easter to Passover to the Equinox, there are a multitude of ways to express the feeling of renewal and rebirth that this time of year brings.
As a child, my favorite part of the Easter celebration was coloring eggs with my brother and sister. We would gather around the table under Mom’s supervision and gleefully dunk hard boiled eggs into different cups of brightly colored dye (oh what we didn’t know about those dyes then!). Little did I realize as a child that this tradition of coloring eggs has been passed down through millennia.
Eggs have long been a symbol of fertility and rebirth. In ancient times, people would gather flowers or herbs in season to steep into natural dyes. These eggs were precious and nutritious gifts that were given to friends and loved ones and carried a lucky blessing.
After us kids had dyed the eggs, Easter eve, while still tucked in our beds, Mom and Dad would hide them around the yard. What a thrill to hunt through the yard – in the tomato bed, herb box or lilac bush – with basket in hand!
We had to look high and low because Mom and Dad cleverly hid them in unsuspecting locations. What great fun to espy a brightly colored egg nested amongst the newly emerging tulips! My instinctual competitive sibling rivalry impelled me to risk tearing my tights to find the most eggs.
Where did all this egg hiding come from? Like ring-around-the-rosy and other grim children’s rhymes or games, the origin of the Easter egg hunt hearkens back to a time when it wasn’t safe to participate in the ancient rituals of the “Old Religion.”
During the “Burning Times” when Christianity was on the rise, rather than give eggs as gifts and risk being persecuted, they were hidden in hedgerows and verdure.
In fact, the term “Easter” itself is purported to be derived from the old Germanic name of Ostara, the goddess of Spring. Though if one looks even further back, it is likely a derivation of Ishtar the ancient Babylonian goddess of love, Aphrodite in Greek mythology. The Catholic Church adopted the Spring Festival in 155 AD and named it Easter.
This Easter, ditch the chemical dyes and return to nature to color your eggs. Using Kombucha Vinegar in the dye gives the color more saturation power.
Coloring Easter Eggs Naturally
with Kombucha Vinegar
Coloring eggs with natural food-based dyes is a simple, safe and fun process for kids and kids at heart. The only ingredients you need are boiled eggs, Kombucha vinegar, and a colorful selection of foods (see list below). You will also want a number of ceramic or glass vessels for the eggs to soak in. Mason jars work well as each jar can fit 2-4 eggs depending on the amount of dye liquid.
- To start place the natural dye base in a pot and cover with 2-3 cups water. Bring water up to a boil and then turn down to a simmer for the recommended time (anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour depending on the dye-source.)
- As the dye is simmering, gently wash boiled eggs in warm water with a gentle soap, rinse well and dry with a lint-free towel. Washing removes oily residues on the eggs and will help achieve a more uniform color.
- When dye reaches a hue you like, strain hot liquid into your jars or bowls, then add Kombucha vinegar (1 Tbsp per cup of dye).
- Carefully place washed eggs into hot dye with a wooden spoon. Soak until shells reach desired color. You can leave the eggs in the dye for up to 24 hours for maximum color. If you plan on eating your Easter eggs, put them into the refrigerator after the liquid has cooled.
Natural Dye Bases, Amounts, Cooking Times and Tips
When using natural dyes there aren’t necessarily set formulas; you may want to add more or less depending on the individual fruits, or flowers available. Following these general guidelines, though, should yield successful results to coloring your eggs.
- Use about 1-2 handfuls of chopped whole vegetables or fruits. Chopping bulky them will help them release their colors to the water quicker.
- Use about 1-2 Tablespoons of spices.
- Most dye sources can be simmered for 10-15 minutes or less but certain ingredients need to be be boiled for a longer period of time (marked with a B) to create an effective dye, typically 30 minutes to 1 hour. Add an extra cup or two of water at the beginning to make sure you have enough dye liquid.
- Use juices directly without adding extra water unless you are aiming for a lighter-colored dye.
- Some dyes, such as grape juice, may actually condense small particles of sediment on the eggs. The sediment will produce a darker color but may make for spotty colors if wiped off just before drying.
We didn’t have time to try all the dyes, but I have listed recommended cooking times for some of the ingredients we used.
Small Amount of Purple Grape Juice + water
Violet Flowers + 2 tsp Lemon Juice
Hibiscus (~10-15 min only)
Violet Flowers (no lemon juice)
Red Onion Skins (B)
Large Amount of Purple Grape Juice (~10 min)
Red Cabbage Leaves (B)
Large Amount of Spinach Leaves (B ~1hr)
Fresh Basil (B)
Yellow Delicious Apple Peels (B)
Fresh Parsley (B)
Chamomile (~10-20 min)
Orange or Lemon Peels (B)
Celery Seed (B)
Ground Cumin (B)
Ground Turmeric (B)
Carrot Tops (B)
Jasmine Green Tea (~10-15 min)
Strong or Instant Coffee
Black Walnut Shells (B)
Darjeeling Black Tea (~10 min)
Yellow Onion Skins (B)
Carrots (B ~1 hr)
Paprika (~10 min)
Red Grape Juice
Fresh Cranberries / Cranberry Juice
Beets/Juice from jar of Pickled Beets (~10-15min)
Lots of Red Onions Skins (B ~30-45min)
Canned Cherries with Juice
What are your favorite Easter traditions or memories? Share them in the comments below!
Next post we will look at lamb and delve into history to discover why we love to serve it up at Easter & Passover with as special recipe for Kombucha Marinated Lamb Chops.