At California’s Gemperle Farms, dyeing Easter eggs is one of the family’s most cherished family traditions. The tradition of decorating eggs dates back centuries, yet no one takes Easter egg traditions more seriously than Europeans. Many countries in Europe have unique traditions and techniques for decorating Easter eggs, which are then strung on vines, hung from trees, exchanged as gifts and featured in games.
Historically, eggs represent rebirth, new life, and spring, so often their decorations are symbolic. In Greece and the Middle East, eggs are dyed a bright red to reflect Christ’s blood. In some countries, the egg represents the rock laid in front of Jesus’ tomb. In Austria and Germany, only hollow green eggs are allowed leading up toEaster Sunday, at which point people display elaborately decorated eggs. In Eastern Europe, people use wax to decorate Easter eggs with intricate designs. Here, you often see the sun symbolizing good fortune, a deer representing good health and flowers signifying love.
“The Gemperle Family relies on the Swiss tradition for dyeing our eggs. With this method, children use roots, leaves and blossoms to decorate their Easter eggs,” explained Gemperle Farms President, Steve Gemperle. Everything from grass to crocuses and daffodils can be used to create interesting and unique patterns on the eggs. This natural method also utilizes onion peels to color the eggs. The outcome is always a mystery and two eggs never look the same.
“We have keen memories of our dad bringing home fresh eggs from the ranch and our mother boiling the onion skins, plopping the egg in the solution and eagerly waiting for the color to emerge,” Gemperle Farms PresidentSteve Gemperle remembers. “I could not wait to remove the cheese cloth and see the secret image inside.”
Decorating eggs is a fun and memorable family tradition. As a family, capture and celebrate the Easter season and coming of spring with these easy to follow Swiss Easter Egg instructions or watch this Easter Egg video.
Gemperle Family All-Natural Easter Eggs Swiss-Style
All Natural Dye Ingredients
- Hard-boiled eggs
- 5 cups of water
- 8 cups loosely packed onion skins (yellow onion skins give an orange hue while red onion skins lend a reddish-brown hue)
- 4 Tablespoons vinegar
- Fill a medium-sized saucepan with 5 cups of water and put over medium-high heat.
- Add the onion skins and simmer covered for 15 minutes, stirring every couple of minutes.
- Strain the liquid into a medium-sized bowl.
- Add the vinegar to the onion skin water.
- Let cool to room temperature.
- Add hard-boiled eggs to the onion skin water. Remember that the longer you leave the egg in the solution, the darker it becomes.
At Gemperle Farms, we found 30 minutes works best for most colors. The colors will deepen the longer the eggs soak in the natural dye solution. If you plan to leave your eggs in the solution longer, place them in the refrigerator.
Don’t stop with onion skins. Following the directions above, replace onion skins with some of the following all-natural ingredients to create different dyes.
- Yellow: 6 Tablespoons of fresh grated root turmeric
- Blue: 6 cups of chopped purple cabbage
- Pink and red: 4 cups of chopped beets
- Golden brown: 6 Tablespoons of loose black tea or Earl Grey tea
Designing the Eggs
To create a special design on our eggs, we use a simple technique with cheesecloth, leaves, blossoms and grasses collected from our gardens and flat leaf Italian parsley. We use onion skins, both white and red, to give the eggs a rich orange color or a reddish brown color.
- Cheesecloth or pantyhose
- Twist ties or rubber bands
- Variety of natural materials, including plants, leaves, and flowers
- Hard-boiled eggs
- Natural dye (directions above)
- Cut a piece of pantyhose or cheesecloth and put a twisty tie on one end.
- Put a hard-boiled egg in the tied section of cloth and place a mixture of leaves and flowers flat on the egg.
- Close the other end of the cloth or pantyhose with a twist tie.
- Place your egg in the prepared dye for about 30 minutes or longer depending on desired color.
Gemperle Farms produce many varieties of eggs including enriched colony barns, specialty eggs such as browns, organic, cage free and omega 3. All of our eggs are produced without hormones and antibiotics – the natural way.