The Eggs Have It!

An all-Natural Egg-Dyeing Extravaganza at Soldiers Delight NEA

eggprogram2015,07.jpgIt was a chilly but gorgeous spring day in northwest Baltimore County, Maryland. Participants lined up at the registration table outside the auditorium of the Soldiers Delight Natural Environment Area visitor center to register for Soldiers Delight Conservation, Inc.’s all-natural egg-dyeing program. A father arrived with his daughter, both bundled against the bracing cold outside. An adult crafter paid her $5 entrance fee and took a seat in the room. A family of four found places at the long table. Each attendee dutifully toted a dozen raw eggs ready for decorating on the Sunday before Easter.

Lynell Tobler, vice president of SDCI, the Friends group for the globally rare ecosystem which adjoins Deer Park Road in Owings Mills, had been preparing for her egg event for weeks. In anticipation of the annual fundraiser, Lynell had wrapped 32 raw eggs in layers of moistened onion skins and sprigs of fresh parsley and dill weed, securing the ingredients tightly against each egg with copious amounts of kite string. Following a ritual she has been honing as a volunteer ranger and naturalist for the Maryland Park Service for over a decade, Lynell had hardboiled four eggs in each of eight natural dyes, including water and vinegar mixed with chopped beets or red cabbage, chili powder, turmeric, grape juice concentrate, pomegranate juice or coffee grounds, then let them sit in their dyes in the fridge for several days to deepen and enhance their hues.{image, id:101}

The day before her event, Lynell prepared the auditorium and then sat on a folding chair outside the Soldiers Delight visitor center, decorating the surfaces of two "sandwich-board" signs with bright chalk as light snow flurries swirled around her. "All-natural egg-dyeing from 12:00 to 2:00 p.m. Sunday!" the colorful chalkboards proclaimed to passersby.

Becca Thompson, 8, of Baltimore, wraps an egg
On the morning of her program the sky was sunny, the temperature just a bit more mild than the day preceding. Lynell had everything ready. Tables at the visitor center were covered in festive yellow sheeting. Bowls full of water held onion skins Lynell had been collecting from local supermarkets for months, now softening in their cool baths. Paper plates on each table held bunches of fresh dill and curly parsley sprigs, the delicate fronds of each herb known to be best for impressing intricate designs upon the fragile shells. In the middle of the auditorium, a table displayed an array of natural dyes, along with a printed handout of instructions describing how to obtain the best tints at home. Scissors and kite string and marking pens awaited egg-adorning fans at each of 18 "dyeing stations" set up around the room.

As participants shed coats and took their places at the U-shaped table arrangement, Lynell explained the unique patterns and colors imparted by herbs, vegetables, fruit juices and spices, extolling the virtues of using natural ingredients so that the eggs could later be enjoyed in salads, sandwiches or in that traditional harbinger of spring holidays: deviled eggs. The egg enthusiasts were ready to begin.

Ellen Lawson-McNeill of Owings Mills sent a photo of her finished eggs

After demonstrating the somewhat intricate technique of affixing wet onion skins and leggy strands of parsley to raw eggs and covering them with string, Lynell and her helpers, SDCI board president Laura Van Scoyoc and volunteers Joe Thompson and Jesse Turner, assisted eager accomplices as they encased their own ovoid bundles. Meanwhile, Lynell unwrapped her previously dyed eggs and buffed them to a subtle sheen with a bit of salad oil and a soft cloth. The result was stunning. Green, orange, brown, blue and pink eggs mottled with impressions of frilly leaves were displayed on a crystal platter for all to admire. The finished effect looked like polished marble.

Deviled eggs are imbued with pastel hues from natural dyes

SDCI raised much-needed funds for their ongoing conservation and restoration efforts at Soldiers Delight NEA, and at the end of a fun-filled afternoon, happy folks took their tidily wrapped packages away with them to steep in nature’s pigments at home.

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