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Dying Easter Eggs Naturally

When I was growing up, my mother and grandmother would dye Easter Eggs using red onion skins. Using this method, the eggs turn a rich sienna color. But it turns out that many different types of vegetables, fruit juices and spices can be used to dye eggs - as well as red wine and strong brewed coffee/tea.

Natural dyes are very simple to make and are basically variations on the same theme. Some people boil the eggs in the dye solution. I opted to color warm, hard cooked eggs.

I made 3 Vegetable Dyes this year, using sugar beets, purple cabbage and yellow onion skins. These are admittedly the most labor intensive and messy of the bunch, but the results are well worth the effort.

Sugar Beets = mauve pink

Purple Cabbage = 'robin's egg' blue.

Yellow Onion Skins = orange

Red Onion Skins = sienna

Some people boil spinach to extract its color and make green eggs. It didn't work for me. As an alternative, I dyed the eggs yellow using turmeric (see below) and then soaked them for a few minutes in the purple cabbage dye to make them green.

To make the dyes, the vegetables need to boil for approximately 30 minutes to extract their color. After the vegetables/skins are strained off, add 2 tablespoons of white vinegar and 2 tablespoons of salt to each quart of liquid.

I would highly recommend using disposable gloves if you have them, as these dyes are unforgiving on nails and cuticles!

Making dyes from Spices is less time consuming, but yields equally lovely results. I used turmeric, but cumin, celery seed, dill seed or paprika can also be used.

Turmeric or Cumin = yellow

Celery Seed = green

Dill Seed = golden brown

Paprika = brick red

To make the spice dyes, add several tablespoons of spice to one quart of boiling water. Add 2 tablespoons of white vinegar, stir and then stand back. The fumes are very strong!

The easiest dyes to make are from Fruit juices, Wine, Coffee or Tea.

Grape Juice or Brewed Red Zinger Tea = lavender

Cranberry Juice = light pink

Brewed Coffee = brown

Red Wine = deep purple

These dyes do not need to be heated. Simply add 2 Tablespoons of white vinegar for every quart of liquid and stir well.

All of the dyes can be made ahead of time, and stored tightly covered until ready to use. (You don't want to spill beet or red cabbage dye, believe me.) I would recommend storing the vegetable and fruit juice dyes in the refrigerator, to prevent them from spoiling.

For the pastel colors, I soaked the eggs for approximately 30 minutes. The dyes from sugar beets and coffee take a little bit longer. For the deeply colored eggs, I soaked them overnight.

Naturally dyed eggs have a beautiful matte finish. If you would prefer a glossier finish, the eggs can be polished with a very small amount of vegetable oil.

Whatever you do, have fun and experiment. This process is very forgiving and the results are just lovely.



Purple Lisianthus

Too gorgeous for words.



The Joyous Holiday of Purim

Today marked the Jewish Holiday of Purim, a joyous holiday which commemorates the rescue of Jews from genocide in ancient Persia.

The story of Purim is told in the Old Testament's Book of Esther. The villain of the story is Haman, an anti-Semite, who convinces King Ahasuerus to commit genocide against the Jews. Haman's plot was foiled by Queen Esther, who courageously disclosed her Jewish ancestry to her husband, in the hope of saving her race.  

Following Esther's disclosure, Ahasuerus reversed Haman's decree and Haman (along with his ten sons) were hang on the gallows for their attempted crimes. It is less than a little ironic that in modern times, 10 of Hitler's top associates were condemned to hanging for war crimes committed during the Holocaust.

Purim is celebrated on the 14th day of Antar, based on the Jewish calendar.  This is the day that Haman planned to kill the Jews. The holdiay started this year on March 15th at sundown.

Purim is preceded by a minor fast day, known as the Fast of Esther, which occurred this year on Thursday, March 13th. The fast signifies Esther's request to the Jews to fast and pray in advance of her appeal to the King.

The primary commandment of Purim is to hear the reading of the book of Esther, also know as the MegillahIt is customary to boo, hiss, stamp feet and rattle gragers (noisemakers) whenever the name of Haman is mentioned in the service -- so as to "blot out the name of Haman."

The holiday is also marked by food, excess drink, charity and the giving of gift baskets (known as shalach manos, or the sending out of portions.)  Pageants, plays and dressing up likewise occur to the delight of young and old in Jewish communites around the world.

And then, of course, there is the hamantashen. We can't forget the hamantashen! These triangular shaped cookies are typically filled with fruit, poppy seed or chocolate filling. The shape of the cookie is said to represent the triangle-shaped hat that Haman wore. Alternatively, the cookies are said to represent Queen Esther's strength and the founders of Judaism: Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  Whatever the case, they are delicious and nearly synonymous with Purim.

I was hoping to share the recipe with you, but I was anything but impressed with the cookie dough I used -- which was dry and broke easily. I will need to go back to the drawing board and find a more suitable dough for next year. In the meantime, if anyone has a recipe they would like to pass on, please do.


A Sure Sign of Spring 

Tulips from the Tribeca Farmer's Market, NYC