April 3, 2010

Happy Easter, Naturally

Popping over to Philomena's this morning, she presented me with five patterned eggs, one for each member of our family. She told me these were the easter eggs of her childhood. Full of wonder I listened to how they were made. Then I was entranced with the traditions that followed. These eggs were always eaten on Easter Monday. Everyone had a turn at cracking the top of their egg with another person and the person whose egg did not crack, then they scored the cracked egg. So basically if I understood her correctly, the winner received two eggs and the loser received zilch.

I treasure Philomena and her stories of the old ways. They need to be preserved. This is her recipe that is at least one hundred years old. Who knows how old. I feel privileged that she is more than eager to share her valuable knowledge and pass it onto me.

One thing to note. She has free range chickens and their eggs shells are rather brown coloured. It was for this reason she sent her adorable husband, Romano, off to the shops to buy the whitest eggs he could find. He returned with eggs that were more browned skinned than those of her own chickens!!! Sooooo funny. She used them just the same. She tells me, unfortunately the contrast was not very striking because a better result is always achieved with a really white egg.

Natural Easter Eggs

Eggs, preferably with really white shells
Heaps of brown onion skins
Nylon stockings (don't throw out those laddered ones any longer, keep them)
Small green or any coloured leaves (of flowers, shrubs, ferns, whatever as long as they are safe)
Egg white

Take a leaf; brush with some eggwhite; carefully arrange and press onto an egg. Brush more eggwhite over the leaf; press gently; it really needs to be completely touching the egg shell. No bumpy or raised bits please. Secure the leaf as best as you can.

Put this inside enough nylon to enclose the egg. Pull tight; use some twine to tie a knot. Make enough eggs to cover the bottom of a large pot. Generously place lots of brown onion skin on the bottom of the pot. Carefully place your nylon tied eggs over the skins. Scatter more onion skins over the eggs; fill with just enough tap water to cover.

Bring to the boil; reduce heat; simmer for two or three minutes. Take off heat. Leave eggs to cool in the water. It is at this time the colour will begin to set into the egg. Remove when cold; carefully snip away the nylon and then peel off the leaf to reveal the imprinted pattern on the egg. Dry well; rub a little oil into each one. Done.

As with all things natural, some imprints will be stronger and more coloured; others will be subtle and dainty. I feel compelled to record this recipe for my kids and for me because it is so rare to find such "natural" gems. These days, paints and artificial dyes are so commonplace we don't blink an eye at using them. I for one, am over it. Bring back the old ways.

To our endearingly priceless neighbours, we thank you.

PS: more on Philomena in my next post.


  1. That was great as bought back a lot of memories as I always remember her easter eggs. They are so lovely aren't they? I guess the kids of today would rather the chocolate ones but in those days if you got an extra bit of food you would consider yourself very priviledged.

    Looking forward to the post on Filomena (did you know that is how she likes to spell her name??) Well that is what she told me anyway when I first met her???

  2. Wow, I am so surprised to see these! I just posted my Latvian Easter Eggs today. Is Philomena Latvian too, or do other cultures color their eggs this way? I grew up coloring eggs with onion skins and in all of these years, I've never met a non-family member who did the same. Philomena's are much more precise than mine. I've never used egg whites or stockings, but they seem to work fabulously!

  3. These are sooooo gorgeous Mariana. I must try making these. I dont celebrate easter but Im makimg them anyway....with empty eggshells..... I'd just like to keep them forever...

    I love the subtle colours and htey are truly truly truly beautiful!!! and natural is my way too! Natural colours have a certain subtlety about them that is so special.

    Is the nylon stocking used to keep the leaves in place or does it serve some other purpose as well? I dont use stockings...heh...its way too hot here....so I'll have to buy some teh next time I go out.

    gosh this makes me so tempted to blog again...lol...sharing something so beautiful is so fulfilling ...and it brings such joy both ways....besides Im missing the blog already...like a lover. LOLOLOL

    Oh Philomena is so precious...yes yes do blog about her Mariana...Id love to know more ...she sounds like a treasure. Lucky you!

  4. Gayle - I'm so pleased you also know Philomena and Romano. You are like my 'confirmation' that they are such special people. I'm sure a few memories came back to you. Good ones too.

    Let's not begin how to spell her name. I just went through a couple of months trying to help them establish their identity. Their previous passports spelt their name one way and their birth certificates were spelt another way and their citizenship was spelt another way again. My godfather. I went through so much red tape and filling out forms and getting witnesses for them it was ridiculous. We managed to get new citizenships and a current passport finally. But the names on there are still different to the way the names are spelt on the birth certificates. What a nightmare! Hope your easter has been good darling. xxxxxxx

    Gosh Denise. I am amazed to hear you do a similar thing with your eggs! And here I am thinking I am about to blog away about something totally new! So funny. To answer your question, Philomena had a Croatian father and a Ukrainian mother. When I asked her where did these traditions originate, she said it was from her mother's side. I guess Ukraine and Latvia are in the realm of the "Russian" ways. How fascinating. I can't get over it. I shall pop over and see your post shortly; can't wait. Thanks so much for sharing.

    zurin - you are such a dear. It seems Philomena's recipe has given you quite a jolt. Isn't it such a treat to discover the way they did and made such things long ago. I am really intrigued with it all. Sure you don't have to use old stockings. Philomena says you can use like a "gauze" material. I personally think 'muslin' would be fine. Yes, the nylon is simply to keep it in place. She says it is really important to get the leaf to be in full contact with the shell. It sounds finicky, but I guess back then this is what they did and spending the time to make them was part of the easter celebrations. You made me laugh - missing your blog 'like a lover'. Maybe that's what I am doing wrong. Perhaps I need to blog and pretend I am having an affair!!! Lololol right back at you. Mariana xxxxxxxx

  5. Oh, those eggs are just precious! So simple, and gorgeous. So sorry to hear about your horse... I read your entry when you first posted it and carried you and your words around in my heart all day, sending you positive thoughts. I hope the clouds of loss have started to lift a bit.

  6. Oh thank you Tumbleweed Woman; you are too kind. Yes I am feeling much better knowing that everyone one and everything has it's day. I draw much comfort and even satisfaction from the wonderful place Tony lived in his final years. Most animals would never have such paradise. Thanks for your thoughts; you really touched me. Mariana xxxxxxx

  7. Beautiful, just beautiful. I really can't wait for next Easter now, so I can give these a go. Dx

  8. Beautiful eggs Mariana! I love how you made them the natural way! This is beautiful!

  9. Wow - those are really cool; I actually like the subtlety of the brown eggs here. Really, really neat. Hope your Easter was lovely!

  10. Happy Easter! Your eggs are beatiful.

    We colour eggs in this way in Croatia, too. And there's the crack the egg game, too, though my family doesn't do it. The eggs are blessed on Sat, and then eaten for breakfast (and during the day) on Easter day.

    We only use brown onions, but I wonder if we could get some lovely purples with the red ones?

    Where is Philomena from, btw? I'm just curious where the customes come from.

  11. Mariana, these are just beautiful. I love the muted colors and the tradition the eggs bring with them. I hope you have a wonderful day. Blessings...Mary

  12. Thanks everyone. Maninas - Philomena's father was Croatian and her mother Ukrainian. She says this tradition was on her mother's side. It sounds like it may well have overlapped a few cultures as you also make them with brown onion skins. I am not sure about the purple skinned onions. It would be an interesting test though.