I grew up in Los Angeles, the granddaughter of Armenian Genocide survivors. My grandmother lived on the corner of our block and we were very close. She often called me to come over to help her cook. One of the things I remember the most is her beautiful Armenian Easter eggs. Always this rich brown color, dyed naturally with onion skins. Her traditional eggs were not imprinted with leaves or flower like mine are. Instead she would make them a solid brown and then use a cloth and some cleanser to rub crosses on the surface. I loved the care and attention she put into these eggs. And on Easter morning, we would have an egg challenge. We would all pick the egg that we thought had the strongest shell. We would take turns tapping our eggs against each other’s. The winning egg would be the egg left untracked.
When my grandmother passed away, I started carrying on her family traditions. I’m the one in my family that makes her delicious stuffed grape leaves. And I’m the one that dyes my eggs the traditional way, with onion skins.
We start collecting onion skins when Lent begins. In the Armenian Orthodox tradition, we take on a vegan diet during these forty days. The recipe has simple ingredients: Eggs, onion skins, and if you want to imprint designs on them, you will need some small leaves or flowers, and some nylon stockings (I buy a couple from the dollar store).
So let’s start: Take your eggs and DO NOT boil them ahead of time. Put the onion skins in a large soup pot. You will need a good amount of onion skins. The more skins you have the deeper the color. You can mix red onion skins and brown onion skins for a deeper brown, but the traditional color is achieved with brown onion.
If you want the traditional solid egg with crosses rubbed on them, place your raw eggs on the onion skins, and cover with water. Bring to a boil. Boil for about 15 minutes with a medium flame. Turn the flame off, and then let the eggs sit for several hours. The longer they sit, the deeper the color. So keeping them in the onion mixture for a short time will give you a light orange color….progressing to a deeper orange, to brick red, to a deep brown. Remove from the onion bath and allow to cool. Then use a Q-tip dipped in a little cleanser to rub crosses on the surface. Rinse, dry, and rub with a little bit of vegetable oil for a glossy egg.
If you’d like to imprint your eggs with designs, you’ll need some small leaves or flowers. I generally use parsley or cilantro, but this year I forgot to buy them. So I opened the fridge to see what I could find and decided to use strawberry tops for my design this year.
Open the packs for nylon stockings and cut off the toe. Then cut each leg into five or six 4” tubes. (Does that make sense?) Place the flower or leaf on the surface of the egg and stretch the nylon over the egg, securing the leaf to the surface. Knot the excess in back of the egg. Place the egg on the onion skins in the pot. Continue wrapping your eggs until you’ve done them all. I dyed 24 eggs with 2 pairs of nylons but I used all parts of the nylons.
Once you’ve got them all done, fill your pot with water to cover the eggs.
At this point, I invert a small luncheon plate over the surface of the eggs just to keep them all submerged while I bring the eggs to a boil and while they steep. As outlined above, boil them for about 15-20 minutes, turn off the flame and just allow them to sit there submerged until the desired color is achieved. Once you like the color, drain the eggs and remove the nylon (discard). You can then rub the surface with a little vegetable oil if you like a glossy egg, or leave them matte.
Here is a photo of eggs I dyed last year using flat leaf and curly leaf parsley. This also shows the result of rubbing oil on the eggs for a glossy finish.
Wishing you all a very blessed Easter! Crisdos Haryav E Merelotz! Ornyal eh Harootiunun Crisdosee!
Christ has Resurrected from the dead. Blessed is the Resurrection of Christ.