Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Easter Eggs- the natural way

It's that time of year again...you know, when adults go to work with pretty purple fingertips from helping the kids dye Easter eggs. I LOVE to dye eggs, and since I'm not working anymore, I actually got to dye them before Easter. (Shock!)

This year, I wanted to do something a little different. I wish I could say it was to prevent my kids from ingesting harmful artificial dyes, or that I was trying to prevent artificial dyes from entering the water supply. I really, really wish I could say this. The real reason I decided to dye the eggs with natural dyes is 1.) I wanted to avoid doing my Econ homework. 2.) I didn't have any artificial dye. 3.) It sounded fun.

People have been dyeing eggs for centuries, and I promise, they didn't use those little Paas kits. They used things like onion skins, berries, leaves, and spices. So, if they could do it, why couldn't I? I did some research online and found a few things that work really well, and got some ideas for some other items. There are two ways to do natural dyeing. One way, you boil the eggs in the dye. The other way is to boil the eggs first, then color in warm or cool dye. Since I wanted to eat the eggs, I chose to boil first and then dye. If you boil the eggs in the dye, they get a funny texture and taste.

Before I got started, I needed my supplies. I took toilet tissue rolls and cut them to make stands for the eggs. I also covered my table with newspaper.




Of course, I did the traditional onion skin dye. This worked the best. The color was amazing, and it dyed the fastest. To make the dye, take yellow onion skins and boil them in some water with about two tablespoons of vinegar. I used about 2 cups of water. I boiled the skins for about 10-15 minutes. Easy!





I also made dye with chili powder. I took about 3 tablespoons of chili powder mixed with about 1 1/2 cups of water and boiled for about 5 minutes. Next time I will strain the dye after cooking it to get the powder out. It left gritty textures on the eggs.




You can also make dyes using strawberries. Since I had some that were past their prime, I made some. I took a pound of strawberries and removed the leaves. I cooked them with about 3 cups of water, which was too much. Next year I will only use 2 cups. I also added about two tablespoons of vinegar. The dye needs to boil for ten minutes and simmer for twenty. This dye was so pretty! It did not color the eggs very well though, even after leaving the eggs in for almost an hour and a half.





The tops of the strawberries (the green part) can also be used to make dye. Theoretically, it makes a golden dye. The dye came out a pretty color, but it didn't make the eggs have much color. To make this dye, take the tops of a pound of strawberries and mix with about 1 1/2 cups of water and a splash of vinegar. Boil for ten minutes, then simmer for twenty.



I also made a carrot dye. This one was least effective. I boiled the carrots for about 30 minutes with a splash of vinegar. It took a long time for the water to turn. I eventually added some chili powder, but the color really didn't take at all. I didn't take any pictures of these.

Did you know you can make dye from violets? I didn't until today. This dye was also quite pretty. I don't think I had enough violets, but the dye did make a small change to the color. I boiled the flowers for about 10 minutes in about 3/4 cup of water with a splash of vinegar.




I had read that you can use spinach to make dye, but I didn't have any. What I do have is an abundance of dandelions. So I substituted dandelion greens for the spinach. I used about three cups of dandelion greens and two cups of water. With greens, you use salt instead of vinegar, and it takes about one tablespoon. They boiled for about 15 minutes.



 If you want to make blue eggs, you can use red onion skins or red cabbage. I didn't have either, which was sad. But the nice thing about Easter is it happens every year.



All in all, my kids had a great time making the eggs. The eggs take a lot more time to dye than with artificial dyes, but they turn out pretty. This is a lot more work than using the tablets, but I love the colors. Of course, there are the health and environmental benefits too, but I have to say that the best part of this project was experimenting with the dyes.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Egg Salad Roll-ups (Low fat and low carb)

Today is a nasty, stormy day. It's cold, too. Since I definitely can't garden in this, I turned to one of my other loves: cooking. Since my waistline clearly reflects my love of cooking, I wanted to do something a bit lighter, but still filling and satisfying. I originally developed this recipe years ago, and it definitely meets the requirements.

Ingredients:

8 hard-boiled eggs
1 cup light mayonnaise
2-3 teaspoons of your favorite mustard (except honey mustard)
1/2 teaspoon- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons minced onion
1/4 cup minced green pepper
black pepper to taste
8 large leaves of either leaf or romaine lettuce (leaf lettuce is easier)

First, separate the eggs. You will keep four yolks and discard the rest. (I give mine to my dogs.)

Mix all the ingredients except the eggs and lettuce. Taste for seasoning.


Take your lettuce leaves and remove the spines, if using romaine.


Place about 1/4 cup of egg salad at the widest part of the leaf.


Roll leaf up to make a burrito-style egg salad wrap.



Enjoy!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Plant of the Week- Surprise Lilies

So I'm starting a new feature called Plant of the Week. I think it's a good way to learn more about a particular type of plant. I'm hoping to get some feedback on what type of plant you'd like to see featured. This week, we're going to start with a plant that I didn't even remember purchasing, but bloomed last year. They have some really interesting habits.

Surprise lilies are members of the amaryllis family. They have many names, including naked lady. They're unique in that the leaves come up in late winter or early spring. The foliage looks a lot like daffodils. In fact, for a couple of years, I thought that's what they were. I was very frustrated because they never bloomed. After the leaves have done their work, they die back.


Surprise lily leaves in my flower bed (taken today April 17, 2011).


In August or September, the flower blooms. It blooms on a single stalk, and unlike lilies, there is no accompanying foliage. They're really pretty, and last for quite a while. They also make a nice cut flower.



This is a picure of a bunch of surprise lilies. See how there's no foliage surrounding the stalk? Many people soften the edges with annuals or ground cover. I personally like the way they look.


To plant a surprise lily, plant the bulb 1-7 inches deep. The colder the climate, the deeper the bulb needs to be planted. They can be planted in fall. If you have a patch that needs to be moved, you can move them in the spring after the foliage withers, or in the fall. Once moved, the lilies may not bloom for 1-2 years. Surprise lilies need to be divided every 3-5 years.

Hope you enjoyed learning about the surprise lily, and please let me know if you have a plant you'd like to do a guest blog on or you would like to learn more about!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

More info on the pretty spring flowers

I did some research, and I found a great website that gives information on wildflowers.


These are called Spring Beauty. The name seems particularly appropriate to me. They grow in moist woods and bloom from March to May. They're about 6-12 inches tall.



This is a cut-leaved toothwort. They like to grow in rich moist woods and reach about 8-15 inches. They bloom from April to May. I had never really noticed these before but they are so pretty!

I knew these were violets, but they are called common blue violets. I've seen them in white before (and those are actually my favorites) but they also come in YELLOW! I've never seen those, but they are on my must-see list.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

April showers bring....April flowers!

Today I decided to leave a little early to go pick up my kids. Since my phone has a pretty good camera, I thought I would take some cheerful flower pictures. As a gardener, I love flowers in all forms. I even love weedy flowers. I know, I know, shame on me. But a weed is just a plant in the wrong spot. And wouldn't it be something if they discovered dandelions cure cancer or something? :)

Violets are my absolute favorite flower. They're so small and sweet, and they smell fantastic too. One of my favorite books, A Girl of the Limberlost, contains a passage about violets so blue they were like a girl's eyes. I just love them, and finding a big clump of them means it's really spring. I'm lucky enough to have patches of them growing in my backyard now.

These beauties are growing in an abandoned lot I pass on the way to the school. They grow next to a building, so they were planted at some point. There are a few patches of them, and they are just adorable. I tried to look them up (really quickly) and didn't find what they were. If anyone finds out or knows off the top of their head, let me know!


Isn't this tulip pretty? It grows next to the flower that is up above. I love tulips. They make me smile.


This pretty pink flower grows in the park near our house. I love them. They are small and sweet, and are only found in the spring.


This little white flower grows by the boys' school. I love the leaves on the plant.

Hope this bit of spring brightens your day!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Pictures and an update

Hello,

Things are starting to get busy here. Baseball season has started, so we have practice almost every night. Jerimiah is doing a great job. I've been loving all over my new nephew Xander, who is just about the cutest kid ever. My goal is to have him say "Aunt Manda" as his first word. I'd like to say that's a secret, but not really. Good thing my brother and sister-in-law have a good sense of humor.

Garden wise, I've got lettuce and spinach sprouts in the backyard, and all kinds of flower seedlings out front. My bulbs have done about all they're going to do this year. I had an amazing showing of daffodils, and my hyacinths didn't do too badly either.





As you can see in the pictures, we've had a lot of rain.

I'm also starting a new business venture, Terra Bella. New Castle has a farmer's market every Saturday starting in June, and I'll be a vendor! I'll be selling heirloom variety herbs, grown organically, in hand painted terra cotta pots. My seedlings are doing well, and I'll be painting soon.