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Make Nice Mission: Vegetable Dye

Make Nice Mission: Vegetable Dye

When we took our tour of the Edible Schoolyard garden, our guide Bailey told us about a fun activity she likes to do with Amaranth. Once a staple crop for the Aztec people in Mexico, amaranth is a beautiful flower that blossoms in the summer and fall. Though the flowers are beautiful themselves, the amaranth grains can also be toasted (much like popcorn) and mixed with honey, molasses or chocolate to make a treat called Alegría, meaning "happiness." But the students at P.S. 216 use their amaranth from the garden in a different way. 

The students thresh the amaranth over a table, rubbing the full head of seeds between their hands to make them fall. Once there is enough grain on the table, they gather a small amount in a bowl to winnow. They then collect all the bright pink/red chaff left over and put it into a mortar and pestle. By adding just a touch of water and grinding the chaff, a bright pink paste forms. They've made a natural dye!

Though it wasn't the right time of year for us try this activity with amaranth ourselves, it did pique our interest. We decided to see what other fruits and vegetables from the garden we could use to make some natural dye of our own. We took a trip to the local farmers maket and picked out a few vegetables that we thought might do the trick. Take a look at our process and how it all turned out.



Take your kids to the farmers market (or a vegetable garden if you can!) and ask them to find the fruits and vegetables with matching colors. This is a fun game to play on its own! Ask them to guess which vegetables they think will create dye the best. You do not have to boil your vegetables in groups. If you have lots of pots, try singular vegetables on their own to see what colors they can produce. Almost every fruit and veggie makes for great colors- there's literally enough for a rainbow! 

what you will need:

• Pots for boiling
• Vinegar
• Material to dye
• Fruits and Vegetables



CHOOSE fruits and vegetables to turn into dye. Look for the ones with the brightest colors that you think will work the best.

We chose to do two separate batches of dye - orange and pink:
• ORANGE: yellow onion + grated carrots 
PINK: beets + purple cabbage + blackberries


PREPARE a pot of water and vinegar to create a fixative. Use four parts water to one part vinegar. The vinegar in the fixative will help the dye to stick to the fabric. If you are choosing to dye with berries instead of vegetables, you can switch the vinegar out for salt.

PLACE your fabric into the pot containing the fixative. 

BRING the pot of water, vinegar and fabric to a boil. Let it simmer for at least an hour. After an hour, remove the fabric from the fixative and WRING it out.

GRATE, CHOP AND PEEL your vegetables. Cut into small pieces and place them in bowls according to their color.


FILL an empty pot with your vegetables and cold water. Make sure to have a ratio double the amount of water to vegetable.

BRING the pot of vegetables to a boil.

REDUCE the heat of the pot to a simmer and let the vegetables sit for an hour. 


ONCE the hour has passed, turn the heat off. You should see the color take over the water and turn orange or pink.

PLACE your fabric into the pot of dye. You may want to strain the vegetables out of the pot before submerging the fabric into the dye.

LEAVE your fabric in the pot for as long as you like. The longer you leave your fabric in the dye, the deeper the shade of color will be.

REMOVE the fabric from the dye and rinse it under water.


TRY using different dyeing techniques to make patterns on your fabric. We tried Shibori on ours! Click here to see how to Shibori >>

LEAVE your fabric to dry and see how it turns out!



Posted in: Crafts: Make It!   In the Garden   Make Nice Mission   

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