St. Patrick’s day has always been one of my favourite days to enjoy, from the memories as a child creating leprechaun traps, to making green-themed baking, to enjoying a relaxed green beer as an adult. Let’s be honest, it’s also an excuse for those of us who love the colour green to dress in entirely green outfits and theme our meals accordingly! If you haven’t already guessed, I have always been one of those (very fun and green enthusiast) types of people.
The colour green can also be made for the use in natural dye from many different plant species. I use natural dye in my artistic practice to paint and colour fabrics. But plant based dyes can also be used in food. Natural dyes can make a range of hues is a variety of saturations, tints, and shades by pairing plants with fixatives and mordants, helping with colour fast and colour variation.
For the use in food, recognize that the plants you use may not make colours as bright as you had imagined because harsh mordants are not always safe to eat or delicious in foods (vinegar for example). They are still beautiful nonetheless, and of course natural too!
In lieu of a day celebrating green, why not experiment with naturally dyed baked goods like cupcakes or cookie icing to pair with a delicious sugar cookie recipe (linked at the end)!
Food-Based Plants that Create Green Natural Dye
Hot blueberries (can also be blue)
Mint (khaki green)
Red onion skins (boiled in an aluminum pot)
These dyes can all be used in baking, but baking requires strong pigments, which not all of these plants will make unless blended together with water, creating a thin puree. Spinach, parsley, and mint can be easily made into puree for use in baking, and are easy to experiment with if you have them at home. The only part you must consider is how it will affect the taste of your baked goods in the end.
There are many plants that can be used to make green pigment, but not all of them are a great addition to the taste pallet of a cookie, which is why I chose to use green tea/matcha powder as my source of dye paired with lime zest.
Green Tea & Lime Cookie Icing
1 cup icing sugar, split in two portions
½ tsp Matcha powder + extra for lighter colour
1-2 tbsp+ of water or milk of your choice
Split the icing powder into two different bowls
Start by mixing very small amounts of liquid into the first bowl until the mixture can make soft peaks, meaning it is still runny but will hold shape in small amounts placed on a cookie. Start to sprinkle matcha powder into the mixture, a little at a time until the colour is the desired light green.
Take the lime and grate lime zest directly into the icing. About half a lime will be a strong enough citrus taste in the icing.
For the second bowl, make the darker green colour by mixing ½ tsp matcha powder in with the icing powder before adding water. If you have already added water, that’s okay. Just add the powder in like you did with the first one. It’ll just take longer.
After both powders are mixed, add the liquid very slowly, a little at a time until the mixture makes soft peaks.
That’s it! Two different tones of green ready for cookies. If you are looking for a sugar cookie recipe to use this natural green icing on, I suggest this recipe by A Latte Food, which is a no chill recipe for press down cookies instead of cookie cutter cookies. You can still chill it if you prefer to use cookie cutters. In addition to this great recipe, if you wanted to make the cookies green along with the icing, add 2 – 4 tsp matcha powder in with the flour when mixing the cookie batter.