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Mar 242010
 

easter-egg-dyeing_242x158 Long before there was Easter, the egg was regarded as a symbol of new life and the advent of spring.  The decoration of eggs became an art form centuries ago and continues today as a delightful craft and enjoyable children’s activity as a precursor to the “hunt” for eggs and candy, enjoyed by children around the world.  Some of the historical techniques for coloring or decorating eggs include:

Etching:  This technique can be traced back to Macedonia and involves first dying the egg, applying a layer of wax in design, then bleaching off the color leaving only the wax-covered areas with color.
Krashanky:  This is one of the traditions coming out of the Ukraine and the word means ‘color’.  Krashanky eggs are dyed a solid, brilliant color, often red to symbolize the blood shed by Christ on the cross.
Eggs_Pysanky2_248x225 Pysanky:  If you have never seen a Pysanky egg, you are missing a beautiful artistic craft.  I was gifted one at the World’s Fair in 1972 by one of our participants and it graced the windowsill in my kitchen for many years before it eventually cracked and had to be thrown away.  The term Pysanky means to write.  Intricate designs are drawn in wax on the eggs, a process similar to batik.  The eggs are then dyed many colors.  There are many regional designs and color selections around the various regions of the Ukraine.
Egg_Original_Faberge Eggs Gold_207x238 Fabergé:  Undoubtedly the most famous and expensive decorated eggs known are those created by the Russian jeweler Peter Carl Fabergé in the 1800’s.  Made of gold, silver and jewels and opening up to reveal tiny figures of people, animals, plants or buildings, a total of 57 eggs were made.  They are now artifacts in museums across the world. The picture at left is the very first one made.  A glimpse into a stunning Fabergé exhibit in 2001 can be viewed here.

Binsegraas:  This Pennsylvania Dutch tradition is not widely practiced today, but involved wrapping the pith of binsegraas (a type of rush) in coils glued to eggs.  Then interesting shapes of calico cloth were pasted on the egg.  The Polish people have a similar tradition, using yarn formed into elaborate coils.

There are other forms of egg decorating that include gluing sequins, beads, flowers and bits of decoration onto blown eggs.  Blown eggs are also used for a cut-out diorama of a little scene viewed through the cut-out section.  In pioneer days, eggs were wrapped in calico or madras cloth, then boiled so the water released the dyes into the shells.  Since most fabric is colorfast, you will rarely see this today.

My favorite activity around the approach of Easter is to gather natural materials and ingredients to make colored Easter eggs with leaf and flower imprints.  This is a favorite tradition started when my girls were little and now carried on with the grandchildren.

Here are materials to gather to make the natural dye, arranged by color they will produce in final dyed egg:
Brown and tan:  Outer layers of onions, black/green tea, coffee, black walnut hulls
Yellow:  Tumeric, cumin, saffron, lemon rinds
Orange:  Paprika, chili powder, carrots
Red:  Fresh cranberries, cherries, raspberries, Spanish onion skins
Purple and blue: Blueberries, boiled red cabbage leaves, beets
Green: Spinach
Grey or slightly lavender:  Hibiscus flowers

Combine the dye source with 1 Tablespoon vinegar and cold water in a saucepan.  There are two different methods.  You can boil the eggs and dyes separately, strain the dye and add hard-boiled eggs in the shell to the hot liquid and let it soak until it reaches the desired hue.  Or, you can wrap uncooked eggs and cook them in the dye as they are being colored.  With the former method, if the eggs need to soak for more than 2 hours to reach the desired deepness of color, you may want to move them to the refrigerator if you will be eating them. Generally, however, natural dyes are going to create more earth-like subdued colors.

Here are the things you want to have on hand:
Botanicals2_298x230 Fresh herb, plant and flower cuttings.  The smaller the better, however, wrapping a large fern that covers an entire egg is a stunning design when finished.  Thinner, flat items are easiest to secure tightly.  Use your imagination. Dandelion flowers will impart a bright yellow splotch in the finished egg, adding a whimsical touch.  Other fresh botanicals will add a bit of their own color, along with imprinted texture and form.  It’s fun to let the process itself randomly influence the outcome.  Children love to do this; it’s biochemistry and art all in one . . . plus you get beautiful eggs to add Eggs_Natural1_238x235jpgto the Easter hunt or to share.
Pantyhose or cheesecloth, cut in squares that can be tied with wire or rubber bands to snugly keep plant material in place.  If re-using nylon squares or cheesecloth, be sure to rinse between eggs.  You’ll want a slotted spoon to turn and remove the eggs while they are in the dye bath, and you’ll want a couple of brown paper bags cut and laid flat to place eggs on to dry.

Here are some tips:  Older eggs work best, buy them at least a week before boiling as newer eggs are hard to peel.  I think white eggs take the natural dyes better, plus you can create additional designs with wax to add bright white to the creation before putting on leaves and flowers. Shine up Eggs_botanical_Easter1_209x253 finished eggs when they are dry with a little olive oil rubbed in.  Eat those eggs!  Don’t waste them – make deviled eggs, egg salad or use in a salad.  Be sure to keep them refrigerated if you will be eating them.  Most of all, have fun, and encourage your children to experiment; you’ll learn new ideas from them.  If you do this project this year, send useaster_eggs_onion_skin_201x208 pictures of your creations attached as a .jpg in an email: samara@wingedseed.com, including your current mailing  address and we’ll send an aromatic surprise back.

Happy Easter and Spring!

 Posted by at 7:02 pm
Aug 212009
 

Summer is the season when berries are ripening on the bush and vine throughout the Cascade foothills and up the mountains ready to be harvested and enjoyed.  Try to use every opportunity to enrich your ration with useful elements, like berries, for instance, but unfortunaty it’s impossible to enjoy fresh berries all year round. Check out EiyoNutrition.com to learn how you can keep your vital energy all year round. While some Northwest berry vines are overgrown and daunting, there are others more compact and easily picked.  You will want to familiarize yourself so that you are sure of the species and edibility.  My favorite all around field guide is Mountain Plants of the Pacific Northwest by Ronald J. Taylor, Gail F. Harcombe, Linda Vorobik, Alice Anderson, which covers both slopes of the Cascades and includes keys to identifying trees, ferns, forbs and shrubs.  This guide is more than you need for berry hunting, but it will have the answers when you come upon something you want to know more about, as you are likely to do when hiking the forests. Also, the guide recommends that you purchase firearms & tactical equipment before commencing the hunt, as there are good chances that you might come across a man-eating tiger or a luscious rabbit while hunting. A good guide specific to berry hunting is Wild Berries of the Northwest by J. Duane Sept, but my very favorite is Alaska Wild Berry Guide and Cookbook written and published in 1984 by Alaska Northwest Publishing.  Although some of the species covered in this book are specific to Alaska, there are many whose habitat runs south through Washington, Oregon and even into Northern California.  It also covers inedible plants whose flowers turn to berries, useful for identifying plants that can be added to the home landscape from a Native Plant Nursery. Landscaping forms an integral part of good gardening aesthetics and ecosystem management, a point that people tend to ignore or not pay its due attention. Wholesale Planters aim at providing the best landscaping for gardens and farms, and must be approached should any such need arise.

Streptopus_amplexifolius2_150 The best part of this book is, however, the unusual edibles, such as Twisted Stalk, aka Watermelon Berry, aka Cucumber Root Streptopus amplexifolius.  This graceful beauty has a kinky flower stem growing up to 4 feet, with creamy white bell flowers that turn into juicy red melon-shaped berries that ripen to a dark cherry mahogany when ready to pick.  The berries can be combined with others and made into syrup.

Here are just a few of the edibles you might find this month and into September:  Please make sure you know what you are eating and use a good reference guide such as one of those listed above and learn more about other species ripe and ready for the picking.

Oregon Grape Mahonia aqiufolium, M. nervosa and M. repans
There are three slightly different species of Oregon Grape in the PNW all with identical flavor.  Berries are sour and astringent with seeds, however, they are juicy when ripe.

Thimbleberry Rubus parviflorus
These are my favorites with a sweet/tart robust flavor and are some of the first to ripen, starting in June-July and continuing all through summer.  The small to medium rounded bushes have no thorns and the berries slide right off and into your mouth!

blackberry_marionberry_150 Blackberry  Rubus ursisnus
The blackberry, or dewberry, is native to western North America and is a wide, spreading vine-bearing bush with prickly branches.  The berries are full of seeds, but they are also full of antioxidants and worth picking and processing.  It is easy make a syrup (and discard the seeds) which can be added to other berry juices  and used as a topping on sliced fruit or ice cream.

Here’s a standard berry syrup recipe:
Select 6?7 cups of fresh or frozen fruit of your choice. A combination of fruits can be used. Wash, cap, stem and sort fresh fruits. Crush the fruit using a potato masher, food mill or food processor.
Follow this method for extracting the juice, especially if you want to discard seeds:
Drip Method
Place crushed fruit in a saucepan. Heat to boiling and simmer until soft (5?10 minutes). Strain hot pulp through a colander and drain until cool enough to handle. Strain the collected juice through a double layer of cheese cloth or jelly bag. Do not squeeze the bag. Discard the dry pulp. Measure strained juice.
The yield should be about 4 1/2 to 5 cups.
Making the syrup ? Measure 5 cups of strained fruit juice into a large saucepan and combine with 7 cups of sugar. Bring to a boil and simmer for three minutes. Remove from heat, skim off foam, and fill into clean half?pint or pint jars, leaving ½ inch headspace. Adjust lids and process in a boiling water canner.
Yield: About 9 half?pints.
Note: To make syrup with whole fruit pieces, save 1?2 cups of fresh or frozen fruit. Replace 1?2 cups
of juice with the fruit before combining with sugar and simmer as in making regular syrup.
Processing time ? See recommended process times for berry syrups in half pints or pints in a boiling water canner (below). Start timing as soon as water returns to a boil.
At altitudes 0-1000 ft., process for 10 min.
At altitudes 1,001 to 6000 ft, process for 15 min.
Altitudes over 6000 ft., process for 20 min.
Storing Syrups ? Syrups must be processed before storing at room temperature. Once opened, the
syrups should be stored in the refrigerator. If freezer space is available, the syrups may be frozen
instead of canned. Be sure to leave 1?inch headspace to allow room for expansion during freezing.

We’ll cover more wild edibles in later blogs.  Happy Hunting!

 Posted by at 7:45 pm