by Katy McCoy
I’m not sure where my mom first learned to do this, but when I was a kid, we always dyed Easter eggs using onion skins and spring flowers. Before starting, there were 2 fun things we had to do: 1) find a bunch of onion skins (for us that meant digging around the onion bin at the grocery store) and 2) forage for all sorts of interesting little spring flowers and leaves that might leave nice impressions on the eggs. When Tassie told me that Valley Rock Farm had gifted the store some huge white blown-out beautiful goose egg shells, I knew what I had to do!
There are lots of natural dyes one can use to dye Easter eggs – turmeric (yellow), beets (red), red cabbage (blue), to name a few, but in my opinion nothing compares with the speed, beauty, and strength of yellow onion skins. Don’t be tempted by the pretty red onion skins as they turn a dull gray. In this technique you use white eggs and place leaves and flowers between the egg and the onion skins which will leave silhouettes. If you are lucky the leaves and flowers will impart color of their own.
Step 1) This step is entirely optional, but as an experiment before getting started, I soaked some of the eggs ahead of time in a turmeric and water solution (with a little vinegar). You can see above that 2 of the eggs have a more yellow tone and this is why. Forget the rubber bands. I was trying to get some white markings also, but these markings just get lost and aren’t worth the effort.
Step 2) Getting a layer of flowers and leaves on the egg surrounded by a layer of onion skins. Not as easy as it looks. If the egg, plant material, and onion skins are wet, it helps a little. I found the easiest method is to lay out in a shallow bowl some cheese cloth, a layer of onion skins, and your plants. Tender leaves and petals work better than anything leathery. Chives and carrot tops worked well for me this year. It is the onion skins that leaves the deep color, so don’t use too many plants.
Step 3) Wrap it all up. There is no controlled way to do this. It ends up a big wad that you hold together with string and/or rubber bands.
Step 4) Cook your eggs. But before putting in the eggs, add a bunch of onion skins to your water and boil it for about 10 minutes. It will turn a beautiful brown color. Many sources say to add a couple teaspoons vinegar, but I never have. Then add your eggs and cook as you would normally hard boil eggs. When cooked, take the eggs out of the hot water and add to an ice bath. It probably is best to let the eggs stay wrapped for a few more minutes just to make sure the dye soaks in.