Saturday, March 10, 2007

Save Your Skins!

When I was a kid, my oldest sister, Kim, gave me the best birthday presents. I don't say this just because I worshiped her like the goddess that she was/is, she really gave me GREAT presents. And since she lived in California, and I in Washington state, they usually came in the mail - very special to a kid. One year she made a kit for making my own beaded jewelry: a bracelet and necklace, or one long necklace. I made the bracelet and necklace and wore them proudly until I outgrew them. I still have the box containing her instructions and the jewelry I made.

When I was about 11 or 12, she sent me a book called "The Reasons for Seasons" by Linda Allison. It is stained and torn, but I still have it too. I used it in Junior High School as a reference for papers, speeches, and science experiments. It is a fascinating book and if you can get your hands on one, buy it. Your children will thank you. One of my favorite parts in the book is in the "Spring" chapter, and it deals with making English Pace eggs with onion skin dye. To make the dye the book suggests you

"Pour a bagful of yellow onion skins into a pan of water. Simmer for one hour until the water is deep red. Cool it and strain out the skins."

In the past I have alternatively used red onion skins which dye the eggs a deep burgundy. Since red onions are mostly what I cook with that's what I'll be using this year. What I have done, almost every year since I got this book, is make the dye as described in the book, then proceed with the book's instructions for "Pace Eggs"

"1. Cut a nylon stocking into 3 inch bands.
2. Collect some small flowers and leaves. Place them on the surface of the egg and bind it with a strip of nylon. (Make it as tight as you can)
3. Simmer the egg in dye (onion skin dye would be splendid), for 20-30 minutes.
4.Let them cool, then remove the bindings. You will be left with leaf outlines on a colored egg."

I would add a disclaimer to use only leaves and flowers that you know are edible or not toxic. This time of year where I live I can find parsley, dandelions, lemon balm, and young blackberry leaves in my yard. The parsley and lemon balm make very pretty designs, and the lemon balm actually stains the egg green under the leaf. Young fern tips are also nice, making a lacy relief, but it's a little early yet for ferns. You could also buy fresh herbs at the grocery store.

The use of eggs for Easter celebrations, and indeed the word Easter itself have secular origins; according to the book the word Easter comes from the the word "Eoster" - the name of the Anglo-Saxon goddess of fertility. So, clearly the dying of "Easter" eggs is not restricted those who celebrate Easter as a religious holiday. But could you imagine this:

with these?!

The bread is Tsoureki, or Greek Easter bread. I found the photo - along with a recipe - here.
That batch of eggs, from 2003 according to my files, were dyed with yellow onion skins. Yes, I really think the parsley and lemon balm worked best there.

I have taken a little break from the computer lately because I have been getting monstrous head, neck and shoulder aches. I am sure this is from my ridiculously poor posture at the computer. Also spring has arrived here, and when the sap starts a-runnin' in the trees I get all giddy and need to plant things. Which is the best segue I can come up with at the moment to mention that I've started a gardening blog here. So if it seems like I have been a little absent from the comment boards of late, it's not you - I've been busy!
Happy Spring to you all, and if it still feels like winter where you live, just vicariously enjoy my garden and don't forget to save your onion skins!


NotSoSage said...

This is awesome! I can't wait to try it. This is a nice alternative to the chemical dyes that are out there!

I'll check out the gardening blog later, when I'm not at work.

theflyingmum said...

You will want to show the world your amazing talent when you peel that first nylon back. If you rub a little oil on them after they are completey dry, they are even prettier.

Swistle said...

WOW, those eggs are GORGEOUS.

Sara said...

That is so cool!!!! And it is actually spring-like here in Buffalo today, 60 degrees, but will snow this weekend.

raehan said...

We did onion peel eggs, but never added the other plants, which sound fun.

Your sister gave great presents, but it is clear that the reason that you treasured them so much is that you love her so. That comes through in how you cherished those gifts.

theflyingmum said...

Swistle- Yes, and easy too! And if you're buying onions anyway, then the dye is ***free***! BONUS!
Sara- I'm heading to NY tomorrow, but Manhattan not upstate, and I know the weather is different there. Still, I'm hoping for no snow... must walk from subway to friends' house.
Raehan- I've also seen the eggs wrapped in onion skins then boiled in water, is that how you did it? They're pretty too, like marbled eggs.

nowheymama said...

Have you ever read the children's book, "Laddie," by Gene Stratton Porter? There's a detailed description of using onion skins on eggs in there. They cut shapes out of the red skins, put them on the eggs and then wrapped them in yellow skins and then in wet cloths before they roasted them in the ashes of the hearth fire. That always appealed to me, and you've done it!

theflyingmum said...

Wow! I've never roasted eggs, no, but I'm going to try cutting shapes out of the skins, that had never occured to me, and I am intrigued. That book sounds like a good one to check out of the library before Easter. Thanks!
PS, I am stuck in NY today - the flight I was supposed to work cancelled. But I am staying with my best friends in the whole wide world and not really minding it too much. (hah!)

Mad Hatter said...

OK, I am definitely going to try this. Those eggs are beautiful.

theflyingmum said...

Ah! I am so glad that you guys like these! But really, what's not to like?! We will also give Ben a half dozen eggs to decorate all by himself with crayons, paints, etc. - These are more for bigger kids and grown-ups.

Beck said...

I love that! I've always meant to use natural dyes to do Easter eggs.

mamalang said...

Those are so gorgeous. Thanks for sharing!