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COLUMN: Natural dyes can brighten Easter

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By Theresa Howard

Coloring Easter eggs is one of the favorite holiday activities for children of all ages. You can use natural ingredients to get colorful results. Here’s a list of natural dye sources and the colors they produce.

· Fresh beets — pinkish red

· Yellow onion skins — orange

· Spinach leaves — pale green

· Red cabbage leaves or canned blueberries — blue

· Strong brewed coffee — beige to brown

· Grape, cranberry, pomegranate or beet juice — grey/purple/red

· Golden Delicious apple peels — green-gold

Begin with eggs that are hard boiled or blown out. If you plan to eat them, hard-boiled eggs should be cooled quickly after cooking and stored in the refrigerator until used. They should never be held at room temperature for longer than two hours.

Choose your desired color and place the natural dye in a pan large enough for water to be 1 inch above the dye material. Bring the water to a boil. Simmer for about 15 minutes or until the desired color is achieved. Remember eggs will be a lighter color than the dye mixture.

Remove the pan from heat and strain the dye into a measuring cup. Add two to three teaspoons of white vinegar for each cup of strained dye.

Pour the mixture into a container deep enough to completely cover eggs. Place the eggs in water and wait until desired color is achieved.

Remove the eggs from the mixture and dry naturally. Remember that naturally dried eggs will have a dull finish, but you can rub them with cooking oil to make them shine.

If you plan to eat the dyed eggs, be sure to use food-grade materials or dyes for coloring. As well as the natural dyes listed above, it’s safe to use commercial egg dyes, liquid food coloring or fruit-drink powders. Make sure no cracks develop in the eggs as these leave openings for bacteria, which can result in illness.

If you’re going to consume eggs that have been used in an egg hunt, hide eggs in places away from dirt, moisture, pets and other possible sources of bacteria. Do not hunt these eggs longer than two hours. Eggs can be washed and either eaten immediately or put back in the refrigerator within two hours. Use them within one week of cooking.