Make Your Dye
Most natural dyes will take longer to work than synthetic dyes—sometimes overnight—so be sure to allow sufficient time to prepare the dye and dye the eggs.
Many common foods and spices make great dyes. Here are a few to start with, along with the resulting color:
Yellow onion skins = Yellow to dark orange
Turmeric or cumin = Bright yellow
Red beets = Pink to red
Red onion skins = Pale purple to red
Red cabbage = Blue (strange, but true)
Spinach = Green
Purple grape juice (use as is) = Lavender
Coffee (use as is) = Tan to brown
Chili powder = Orange
Raspberries or blackberries = Pink to purple
Yellow or green apple peels = Yellow-green
To make the dye, take 4 cups of chopped or mashed fruits and veggies, or 4 Tablespoons of spice, and boil them in 4 cups of water (use less if you're working with watery produce, such as spinach) and 2 Tablespoons of white vinegar. Let that simmer for 30 minutes. Then, strain out the bits of fruits or vegetables, and the remaining liquid is your dye.
Have fun trying other items you may have around: If it’s brightly colored and stains your cutting board or fingers, chances are good it will stain eggshells nicely too.
If the eggs have soaked overnight and the color still isn’t intense enough, carefully transfer the dye and eggs to a small saucepan and gently simmer them for up to 30 minutes.
While solid-color eggs are attractive, you can make some of your eggs a bit fancier with wax. Using a crayon or an old candle, make designs on the eggs before soaking them in the dye. The waxed areas will remain undyed. You can also wrap rubber bands tightly around the egg to achieve the same effect.
Naturally dyed eggs will have a matte finish. If you want them to shine, apply a few drops of olive or other vegetable oil and polish with a soft cloth. If you plan to eat your colored hard-boiled eggs, store them in the fridge and eat them within a week. If you want to use them as decorations at room temperature for more than an hour or two, put them in the compost when the holiday is over.
Farm gal, library worker, and all-around spendthrift Jean Nick shares advice for green thrifty living every Thursday on Rodale.com.