If you always reach for artificial colorants to color Easter eggs with your kids, consider some more natural alternatives this year. Not only are natural dyes better for your health, but they are also better for the environment.
Water waste, energy consumption, and chemical leaks into the soil are typical in the manufacturing process of colorful dyes. Add to that animal testing that is required for food additives, and toxicological considerations to your health (download the full report by Center for Science in the Public Interest here), and maybe the inspiration to use natural dyes will grow stronger.
Many things in your kitchen can be used to color eggs: onions, cabbage, beets, and even your cup of coffee. Today I’m going to demonstrate how we use beets to color eggs (because I always have beets in my home).
Coloring Easter Eggs with Beets
What you need
Eggs (a dozen)
Beets (3-4 medium)
Vinegar (1/2 cup)
What to do
Start by washing the beets and trimming the tops off. Today I also quartered the beets, so I could fit more of them into my relatively small pot to intensify the color. Then I boiled beets until the fork could slide in without effort.
As you can see in this photo, the water in the pot looks almost black, but a drop of beet juice in a spoon is a more accurate representation of the color.
Remove beets from the water.
Tip: Are you wondering what to do with all those boiled beets? Our favorite ways to use beets is to eat them plain dipped into salt, on toast with goat cheese, or in a Red Russian salad.
I try to always keep a few boiled eggs in my fridge. They make for a healthy daily snack. Even very young kids can grab a boiled egg from the fridge and peel it on their own.
Tip: This is how I cook eggs to make sure they are easy to peel. I place eggs in a pot and cover by a few inches with cold water. I bring it to a boil and continue boiling for 15 minutes. Then I quickly cool the eggs in ice water. The shell falls off in 2-3 easy pieces.
We’ve discovered through trial-and-error that adding vinegar to the beet juice intensifies the color. We started researching why and discovered that the red color of beets comes from betalain pigment that is sensitive to pH. Vinegar is acidic, and when added to the mix, it brightens the red and provides an intense red color you want for dying your eggs.
This picture was taken just a few minutes after adding eggs to our beet juice + vinegar mix.
We decided to experiment with making some interesting patterns by adding rubber bands over some eggs before putting them into beet juice.
Here are our eggs after 20 minutes of dyeing.
We ended up leaving eggs in the beet juice in the fridge overnight just to see what effect it will have on color.
Here are our eggs the next day fresh out of the pot.
And here are our eggs just a short while later. Note that we took rubber bands off our eggs. Pretty patterns, right?
Unfortunately, the dyed eggs do not stay bright red for long after they’re removed from the beet juice. We turned to science to figure out what happens and discovered that the trick to keeping the pigments red is to preserve acidic conditions. (The link is to the article about anthocyanins, but they are similar to betalain pigments).
And here are our eggs the next day. If you are wondering why our eggs show the different intensity of color, it depends on how hard we rubbed eggs with a paper towel: the lighter shade = more rubbing.
What do you think?
The eggs are not as bright as when they were freshly out of the beet juice, but they look very pretty. And we loved how rubber bands added interesting designs.
We are still curious about the bubbles on the eggs’ surface, and we emailed this question to a chemistry professor. I hope to be able to tell you more about it.
P.S. If you are wondering why the quantity of eggs is decreasing in each picture, it’s because my kids keep eating them 🙂