Naturally Dyed Easter Eggs

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Over the last few weeks I’ve seen many postings using natural dyes for Easter Eggs.  The pictures are beautiful and I wondered if I could get my eggs to turn out as nice as the pictures.  Over all I had mixed results.  Some colors were the same as the pictures – other colors I didn’t come close.

If you want to try naturally dyeing eggs here are two important things to know before you start:

  1. Natural dyes are not going to be as vibrant as commercial dyes.
  2. The process will take hours – at least a 1/2 a day or more.

But first I recommend you read these two blog postings on natural dyes and decorating techniques from the Herbal Academy of New England. I thought they had some great suggestions for natural dyes.

The Day Before Cook your Eggs:

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Cook your eggs gently by starting with a pot of cold water on low heat.  Don’t bring your eggs to a full boil but just to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes.  Cover and remove from heat and let stand until completely cool.  I recommend you do this the night before.  By morning you will have perfectly cooked un-cracked hardboiled eggs.

Select your Dyes:

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What I liked about natural dyes is that you can use what you have on hand. In my freezer I found a bag of frozen blueberries (blue) and cranberries (red).  In my spices I found turmeric which I thought would make a great yellow dye. I wanted a green color and I decided to try using green tea.

Berries Smashed or Cooked:

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The blueberries I smashed and added enough boiling water to the bowl to submerge the eggs. The cranberries needed to be cooked until the berries popped open and I could mash them into a pulp.  For the turmeric and green tea (4 tea bags) I just added boiling water to the bowl and let them steep and cool. Do not add your cool eggs to the hot dye mixture – this will result in cracked eggs.

Don’t forget the Vinegar:

March 28, 2015 005I added a tablespoon of white vinegar to the all the bowls so the dye would set.

Hurry Up and Wait:

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When the waters were cool I set my eggs into the cups. I first started with bowls but the eggs weren’t submerged enough to be completely covered. I didn’t want to add more water because I felt it would dilute the dye so I switched to using cups and glasses.  And I waited and waited…and waited…

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After 4 hours of waiting the other colors were ready and I pulled them out.  However, the red egg in the cranberry pulp wasn’t doing a thing. So I found some Red Zinger Tea and frozen raspberries in the freezer. I made up a new bowl of red dye and dropped my egg into it and waited another hour to see what happened.

5 Hours of dyeing:

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After working on this for 5 hours I decided to throw in the towel! I wasn’t going to get a red Easter egg. Oh well…

Final Results:

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Left to right: Red (cranberry, raspberry and Red Zinger Tea) Yellow (turmeric) Purple (blueberries)

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Left to right: Blue (blueberries) Yellow / Green (if you look close…) (green tea – however, I think some turmeric accidently got in my bowl of tea resulting in more yellow than green color).

Final thoughts: If you decide to do this I don’t recommend this for really young children – the process takes a long time and unless you have patient children the waiting will be difficult.  On the other hand, this process allows for some really cool creative thinking about the natural dye world and playing with other ingredients would be fun.  Some of the suggestions from HANE on dyes are:

  • Turmeric
  • Coffee
  • Nettle
  • Spirulina
  • Hibiscus
  • Onion skins
  • Black tea
  • Elderberries

If you decide to try using natural dyes and you have success with red or green – please let me know!

Happy Easter!

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Backyard Chickens Part 2 – Roosters and Eggs

 

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In my town there has been some zoning changes regarding keeping chickens. My town is part urban and part rural and keeping backyard chickens has become very popular.  Unfortunately, some chicken owners have not been good to their neighbors by containing the noise from loud roosters and/or containing the flock to their own yards.  On more than one occasion I’ve had to wait for a flock of chickens finish crossing the road to get to the other side.

Because of a few knuckle heads, my town changed its zoning regulations to restrict backyard chicken owners to 11 hens on less than 5 acres and no roosters.  Honestly, I don’t blame the town for banning roosters – they can be noisy all day and night, some are aggressive and in my opinion are not needed if the reason for having chickens is to have fresh eggs.

 

 

 

 

 

A pullet (hen less than 1 year old) will begin to lay eggs around 5 months of age regardless if there is a rooster.  Remember your basic biology, when a male mates with a female the result is a baby.  However, some people think hens need roosters to lay eggs.  If you want baby chicks then yes, you need a rooster.

Once a hen (pullet) is old enough, she will begin to produce an unfertilized egg every day like clockwork.  She doesn’t need any help from a rooster to do her thing.  I actually prefer to eat unfertilized eggs.  On occasion I’ve had fertilized eggs that have had a bit of blood in them, which I find unappealing.

checkbox425[1]Chicken Facts:

–  Hens (or pullets) begin to lay eggs around 5 months of age.

–  In the first year hen’s lay small eggs at least once every day and the eggs    get gradually bigger as the hen ages.

–  Two-year-old hens (depending on the breed) lay larger eggs, but may not lay every day but every other day.

–  Three years and older, will lay large eggs less frequently and the older the hen is the less eggs she lays. This is why farmers turn over their flocks on the third year and bring in new pullets.

–  A good laying hen in her prime on average can lay 250 – 280 eggs in a year!  That’s 1 hen!

Myths:

–  Do you remember the jingle on TV back in the 1980’s– “Brown eggs are local eggs and local eggs are fresh?” Well that was a brilliant ad campaign.  How many people fell for it?  Do you see me raising my hand?

  •  Myth: The color of the eggshell does not determine the freshness of the egg. The color of the shell indicates it’s a breed of chicken that happens to lay a brown, white, or blue egg.  People thought brown eggs were once white and had gone bad.  Which is why egg producers created the commercial – to get people to buy brown eggs since only white eggs had been sold commercially.

To test if an egg is fresh place an egg in a bowl of water.  A fresh egg will sink to the bottom.  An old egg will float up to the surface of the bowl.

–  Another slick marketing campaign used by some health food stores was claiming that fertile eggs are more nutritious than infertile eggs.  The goal was to charge more for these “special” eggs.

  •  Myth: According to “Storey’s Guide to Raising Chickens” there is no evidence that states that a fertile egg is more nutritious than an infertile egg.

–  How many people do you know that gave up eggs (especially yolks) because they were told they cause high cholesterol?

  •  Myth: Eggs are high in cholesterol however; one would have to eat a lot of eggs to get their own cholesterol to rise. According to an article from the Mayo Clinic:

“Chicken eggs are high in cholesterol, but the effect of egg consumption on blood cholesterol is minimal when compared with the effect of trans fats and saturated fats.

 The risk of heart disease may be more closely tied to the foods that accompany the eggs in a traditional American breakfast — such as the sodium in the bacon, sausages and ham, and the saturated fat or oils with trans fats used to fry the eggs and the hash browns.”

So enjoy your eggs!