Commercial food coloring, including most Easter egg dyes are a haven for less-than-healthy chemicals and additives. Most people don't realize that synthetic food coloring is made from petroleum. Just to be clear, we're talking about the same petroleum that's used to fuel our cars and make plastic cups.
It's suspected that food dyes and lakes are linked to numerous conditions, including attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children, asthma, allergies and cancer. Fortunately, there are plenty of natural alternatives used all around the world, except right here in the United States. In fact, many of the same products that you buy at the store containing artificial food coloring in the United States (such as candy) contain natural food coloring in other countries. Same products, but safer ingredients abroad.
Chances are you eat foods containing artificial colorings a lot more often than you think. In the United States, everything from Pop-tarts to maraschino cherries, breakfast cereals to licorice, and man-n-cheese to ice cream contains artificial food coloring. Your best bet is to read labels and select foods that don't contain these food colorings. If you're baking with a recipe that requires food coloring, there are plenty of very easy, all natural alternatives that might be in your kitchen right now!
I wanted to teach my kids little more about natural foods and how to make something look (and taste) beautiful without having to add chemicals. I thought I'd start with Easter eggs as the holiday is right around the corner for my family.
I've used many of these ingredients to color cakes and frostings in the past. They've all worked out great. To color my eggs, I used the following foods to yield beautiful pastel colors:
Beets make a beautiful pink color.
Onion skins make golden brown.
Frozen blueberries make lavender.
Chlorophyll makes green.
Turmeric makes yellow.
After letting the eggs sit in each of these mixtures for about 10 minutes (directions below), this was the result.
Creating the mixtures was really very simple. You'll notice that I didn't add any vinegar, a common ingredient to any type of egg dying. I'd love to say that I just wanted an light pastel color and decided to go without, but truth be told, I just forgot to add it.
Vinegar (any type, but preferably white) is a wonderful acid medium that allows the color to saturate even more. Had I used it, my eggs would likely be much brighter and less pastel. Any acid will do, not just vinegar. In fact, cream of tartar or lemon juice work pretty well, too!
Here is what I did for each of the colors:
1 cup frozen blueberries
2 cups water
Bring to a boil for about 5 minutes. Strain berries and discard. Allow liquid to cool. Add eggs, allowing to sit for 10 minutes. NOTE: It's important to allow all liquid to cool to room temperature to avoid cooking the eggs any further.
3 tablespoons ground turmeric
2 cups water
Bring to a boil for about 5 minutes. Allow liquid to cool. Add eggs, allowing to sit for 10 minutes. NOTE: I did not strain this mixture as there wasn't much to strain. Some sediment remained at the bottom but didn't affect the color.
4 tablespoons liquid chlorophyll
2 cups water
Combine ingredients together. Add eggs, allowing to sit for 10 minutes. NOTE: What do you mean you don't have liquid chlorophyll at home? You should! It's really, really good for you. I drink two tablespoons in water everyday. It's an amazing detoxifier and helps with digestion, too. Chlorophyll is the best green egg dye in town, too!
1 large beet, coarsely chopped, skin left on
3 cups water
Bring to a boil for about 15 minutes. Allow liquid to cool. Strain beets and discard. Add eggs, allowing to sit for 10 minutes.*
The outer peel of 3 large, or 4 medium Vidalia onions
3 cups water
Bring to a boil for about 15 minutes. Allow liquid to cool. Strain onion skins and discard. Add eggs, allowing to sit for 10 minutes.* NOTE: You can use red or a lighter yellow onion. The eggs will color, but result in a different hue.
Keep in mind that the beets and onion both require extra boiling time to render the greatest color, thus extra liquid, too.
I hope you enjoy coloring your eggs this year. If you're not into coloring eggs, consider adding one of these colors to a food, such as a frosting or to a home-baked good, like cookies. They're a lot healthier than store-bought varieties.