Easter eggs the traditional way

Elizabeth Helm’s decorated eggs. PHOTO: GREGOR RICHARDSON
Elizabeth Helm’s decorated eggs. PHOTO: GREGOR RICHARDSON
In this recipe from the ODT archives, Elisabeth Helm, from Switzerland, showed us a traditional way to decorate eggs for Easter back in 2012 as part of our Flavours of Home series.

To decorate eggs

You will need:

Eggs at room temperature
onion skins
interestingly shaped leaves from the garden
a little oil
old pantyhose


Everyone colours eggs differently in Switzerland. In Mrs Helm's family, they used onion skins and leaves, but you could also use food colouring or even felt pens.

You need a lot of onion skins — Mrs Helm gets them from a supermarket.

Boil them in water for about 10 minutes then cool the water. It will be brown.

Gather some interestingly shaped leaves from the garden. Ferns, parsley and clover work well. In Switzerland, Easter is at the beginning of spring and there is not much choice of leaves.

The eggs need to be at room temperature.

Dab a little oil on the egg to help the selected leaves adhere to it. Wrap each egg tightly in a piece of pantyhose and tie tightly with thread — you may need someone to help you.

It is important for the pantyhose to be stretched tightly to hold the leaves in place and to allow the onion-skin dye to penetrate.

Place the eggs in the cold onion-skin water, bring to the boil and cook for 10 minutes.

Place in cold water and unwrap the pantyhose. The eggs will be a deep tan with impressions of the leaves.


  • You can dye the eggs in onion-skin water without the leaf stencil and, using a toothpick dipped in vinegar, draw a pattern on the dyed egg.
  • You can also dip hard-boiled eggs in water with a few drops of food colouring, or decorate them with felt pens.

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