Natural dyes, helicopter release put new twists on Easter traditions
by Marie Nesmith
Apr 10, 2011 | 3398 views | 0 0 comments | 15 15 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Bartow County Extension Coordinator Kathy Floyd dyes an egg in yellow onion skins and another in spinach.
SKIP BUTLER/The Daily Tribune News
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With Easter peeking around the corner, the Bartow County Extension Office's kitchen turned into a testing station Tuesday as Kathy Floyd experimented with the art of egg dyeing. Instead of immersing eggs in store-bought dye, the Bartow County Extension coordinator opted for natural alternatives, ranging from red onion skins to spinach.

"What's new is old again," Floyd said. "The ways that probably our grandparents and great-grandparents dyed their Easter eggs with natural things, [now] people are just really warming up to that idea and wanting to get things that are more natural and taking advantage of what nature has to offer in terms of their own dyes. And we see that not only in Easter eggs or holiday things but reverting back to handmade items, things that are natural -- and we like that.

"I think that's got a lot to do with the resurgence [of dyeing eggs naturally]. And if you look at them, they're not perfect. The color is not perfect depending on the egg and the different kinds of [dyeing materials]. ... But I think the idea of being able to do something at home [is attractive]. It's less expensive if you use natural things that you already have, and it's more fun than filling up a plastic Easter egg with candy."

Referring to a column penned by the University of Alaska Fairbanks' Cooperative Extension Service, Floyd boiled various items, such as turmeric, strong coffee and beets, which produced shades of yellow, brown and red, respectively. Her biggest surprise came from utilizing red onion skins. After submerging a hard-cooked egg into the boiled mixture of skins, vinegar and water, the result was a pale yellow hue instead of the expected pink.

"You can do it two ways. You can cook the eggs first," Floyd said, adding to hard cook an egg, it needs to be placed in cold water, brought to boil, then removed from the heat for about 20 minutes. "And then while they're hot or you can cool them off, you heat up your liquid that's going to have the coloring in it, put a little bit of vinegar in it and then put the egg into the hot liquid. Then you can let it sit as long as you want.

"You can sit it on the counter for just a little bit for a lighter color [or] put it in the refrigerator and let it sit overnight for a deeper color. Or you can actually cook [the eggs] in the liquid that you're dyeing them with. Either way, you need a little bit of vinegar to help the color adhere. You can use about a tablespoon of vinegar to a quart of liquid."

While having fun in the kitchen, Floyd advises families to follow safety measures when cooking and consuming eggs.

"Safety wise for eating the eggs, they don't need to stay out of the refrigerator more than two hours because eggs are a potentially hazardous food, and we all know about the possibility of salmonella poisoning and [other types of] foodborne illnesses," Floyd said. "So if you're going to hunt them and eat them, then you need to be very diligent about making sure they're in the refrigerator until right before you hide them. Hide them, let them be found and put them back in the refrigerator and they will be perfectly safe to eat. But we want to keep them 41 degrees or lower, and we don't want them out of the refrigerator for more than two hours.

"You know, Easter egg hunts don't take long. It probably takes longer to hide them than it takes the kids to find them. Where we used to have all real eggs and one what we would call the 'golden egg' that had the candy [inside], everything has candy now. So it's a great nutritional way to keep kids from having quite so much. We're just so into feeding them candy every time they turn around. But just make sure to emphasize the safety aspect, making sure that eggs are [maintained] at the proper temperature, and you don't want to find one two days later and eat it. I do remember finding [some] with the lawn mower about two weeks later."

For those wanting to trade homemade fun for an organized egg hunt, there are numerous events taking place across the county this month. One of the largest is the Cartersville Egg Drop, which is expected to draw 8,000 people on Saturday, April 16. Partnering with Cartersville Parks and Recreation Department, Oak Leaf Church is sponsoring the free event at Dellinger Park -- 100 Pine Grove Road -- from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Like last year's offering, a helicopter will drop plastic eggs at two times -- 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. With a total of 50,000 eggs available, the children will be divided into age groups on four fields. These changes in logistics have helped the event run much smoother than its first year, when the eggs were released at one time and location.

After retrieving the eggs, children ages 2 through 12 will trade them in for candy. While the egg hunts will be the highlight of the day, other offerings will include food and craft vendors, live music, inflatables for children and a visit from the Easter bunny.

"One of the core things that we founded our church on was to make bold moves and dropping eggs from a helicopter is a bold move," said Rebekah Warren, children's director at Oak Leaf Church in Cartersville. "It kind of takes a new twist on an Easter egg hunt. It's just a great way for us to create an opportunity for families to be together and have fun and ... connect with them so that maybe they'd visit Oak Leaf Church to see that it's just a church for real people.

"Last year we estimated at about 6,500 people. So we've planned for 8,000 this year. ... [The egg hunt] is actually really cool. It's exhilarating to watch the kids, because we'll line them up [since] we don't want the eggs to drop on their heads. We've made that mistake before. So we line them all up, and hold them back, and they watch all the eggs drop. So from the moment we say, 'Go,' just them rushing out on the field is just so fun to watch."

To help the egg hunts operate effortlessly this year, adults are encouraged to pre-register their children by visiting www.TheEggDrop.com.

For more details on Easter-related activities, view upcoming editions of The Daily Tribune News, especially the Family & Living page on Thursdays.