Eggs are on our mind lately. Because the April locavore waiting patiently for asparagus knows the good news is it’s egg season. “Peas and rhubarb are still weeks away, yet one of the first foods of the season is stacked by the dozen,” wrote Edible Manhattan editor Gabrielle Langholtz, who encourages us to practice poaching, frittata finessing and even a Passover pavlova, with the shell-bound sustenance that chickens, ducks and other poultry start laying in great quantity as the days lengthen.
But while plentiful eggs may inspire a spring menu, they don’t guarantee compelling Easter egg creations. For that you may consult this list of 20 alternatives to plastic and toxic Easter eggs, including “eggs” crafted from pine cones, rocks, felt and floss; the natural dye tips from a homeschooling/homecrafting blog (“Stock the pantry with red onions and blueberries and turmeric and goldenrod.”), or Martha Stewart’s 40 tips for marbleized, decal-ed and patterned eggs.
Or you can talk to John Musnicki, the East Hampton-based graphic artist and product designer, who is the force behind the annual Lions Club Pumpkin Carving Contest (see some of the awe-inspiring entries here) and a master egg dyer. Musnicki and his family dye several dozen eggs in anticipation of the annual Easter egg hunt with friends and family. He shares a few of his tips below:
“We dye our eggs with natural dyes and have developed a few interesting techniques over the years,” said Musnicki. “They not only take on nice natural tones and subtle textures. They also blend in really well with nature.” So, the egg hunts end up being challenging for all ages.
“Our hunts are usually held in the woods with a small group on a stretch of walking trail with diverse background opportunities and at my mom’s in Bridgehampton, with the entire family, where the backgrounds there have taken eggs forever a few times. In fact, one from last year’s hunt just surfaced this week, one year later!”
Musnicki has experimented with a long list of color-conferring grocery items, and while he continues to find new options, he said the best color bases by far are:
Yellow onion skin (for deep yellow)
Red onion skin (for red brown)
Turmeric (for lighter yellow)
Dark coffee (for browns, greys and black tones)
Beets (for red)
Musnicki said he leans mostly on the first four and can mix them to make an assortment of other colors. Coffee and beets can work well, but require a long egg soaking for the color to stick. Either way, experimentation and patience are the egg artist’s best friends. “You can vary the intensity by varying the time in the bath. The effects change as the baths sit and are contaminated with other colors.” He also noted that you can vary the color by using brown and white eggs. “The real cool stuff happens when you combine colors: take a blue one and put it in yellow for a little while and you get a rare green one that disappears if you just drop it on the lawn.”
“No two greens ever come out the same because the contamination from that bath makes the next one less intense.”
“We usually end up with every egg being a little different and if they aren’t, a quick dip in a different color usually does the trick!”
This story was originally published in April 2014.