As a kid, the traditional Latvian egg smash was probably my second favourtie Easter activity. [Turns out this smashing game, also called ‘egg tapping’, ‘pecking’ or ‘egg fights’ is a tradition in many European countries]
Our whole family would get together and play – whether age 2 or 82, it’s a pretty simple game. To play, each person chooses a hard-boiled egg and takes turns smacking the ends against another person’s egg. If one end cracks, you repeat with the other end. When both ends of your egg have cracked, you’re out and the last egg standing is declared the winner … not that there’s a fantastic (or any) prize, or that there’s really any skill involved!After the game, you just peel your eggs and eat them up.
The game itself is fun, but the game prep is just as much fun: egg decorating, my #1 favourite Easter activity. To decorate the eggs, we sometimes used ferns and leaves or elastics wrapped around the eggs, then dyed the eggs in onion skins to create a natural silhouette, and sometimes we just used crayons.
To this day, we still play the egg smashing game every Easter. And now, with my own kids, we’re always seeking out new and different natural colour sources! Similar to our natural colouring experiments for icing (see Coloured by Nature), we think about and test out different plant-based foods that could create the desired colours.Last year, we used turmeric (yellow), red cabbage (blue) and beets (pink) and they all turned out really well. This year, well… I wasn’t quite so organized – I used up all my red cabbage making sauerkraut, and the kids gobbled up all my fresh CSA spinach in salads… so we’ve been forced into experimenting with some new natural dyes, including pink onion skins (these turned out orange), parsley/kale (didn’t quite work for green) and purple radish (bluish purple).Here are a few tips for making your own naturally coloured eggs – whether for an Easter egg smash, or a fun addition to your kids’ school lunches:
- Choose lighter coloured eggs, so the resulting colours will be more vibrant. Our local CSA eggs are typically brown or slightly off-white, but we got some near-white duck eggs in our tote recently, so have been patiently saving them for dye-day!
- When hard-boiling, add a dash of vinegar to the water. This will help clean off the egg shell to absorb the natural colouring more easily.
- Once boiled, run eggs under cold water (this will make peeling easier later).
- Prepare a separate dish for each colour.
- Select your natural colour sources and allow to soak a few hours or overnight:
YELLOW – Cover eggs with water. Add about 1 Tbsp white vinegar + 1 Tbsp turmeric.
BLUE – Lightly steam a few leaves of red cabbage (or add boiled water to raw leaves). Allow to cool slightly. Add boiled eggs and 1 Tbsp white vinegar to the coloured water (keep the leaves in the dish too).
PINK – Lightly steam sliced beets (or add boiled water to raw beets). Allow to cool slightly. Add boiled eggs and 1 Tbsp white vinegar to the coloured water (keep the beets in the dish too). Note: I have also been lazy and just used some of my already-prepared beet puree mixed with water.. this works too!
ORANGE – Add pink onion skins to hot water. Allow to cool slightly. Add boiled eggs and 1 Tbsp white vinegar to the coloured water (keep the skins in the dish too). Note: even if the water doesn’t appear overly colourful, you can still get a nice result. Be patient.
PURPLE-BLUE – Add purple radish (a.k.a. purple daikon radish) skins or slices to hot water. Allow to cool slightly. Add boiled eggs and 1 Tbsp white vinegar to the coloured water (keep the bits in the dish too)
GREEN – I had a good plan for this, using spinach, but couldn’t quite execute this year due to busy-mom-life and all that. Also going to try to double-dip (a few hours in cabbage + a few hours in turmeric). Will update this section when I get around to it.Leave the eggs in the liquid dye for a few hours or overnight (I recommend putting lids or plates on top to keep the smells to a minimum). Note: any shell that is not submerged will not absorb the colouring (so you’ll either want to top up your dye liquid by adding water, or rotate your eggs in the dye occasionally. Another option is to leave certain sections white and re-submerge those sections into a separate colour to make mulit-coloured eggs).
Once desired colours are achieved, remove eggs from liquid, rinse under cool water and pat dry. Eggs can be smashed or consumed right away, or stored in a container in the fridge for a couple days, up to one week (again, lids or covers of some kind are a good idea due to the eggy smell).A few final notes:
- About planning ahead – It’s nice to plan ahead and all (*not* a skill of mine!), but if you do make these eggs too far in advance, your colours may change slightly over time. For example, a vibrant pink egg may fade to a dusty pink once removed from its beet bath and stored for a few days. Also, hard-boiled eggs don’t keep as long as raw eggs, so one week tops in the fridge after boiling.
- About consistency – Dying eggs naturally isn’t always predictable. I’ve put two nearly identical eggs into the same cabbage leaf bath and each one came out with a slightly different blue tint. I’m cool with it, but if you’re more of an anal perfectionist, dying eggs naturally may not be for you.
- Coloured (inner) eggs – Sometimes a bit of the natural colouring mysteriously seeps beneath the shell and leaves the egg white itself slightly tinted – a faint pink or blue. BUT, since you used natural food-based dyes it doesn’t matter – so eat up, tints and all!