Vegetables from your schoolyard garden not only feed students, their bright colorations can also spark some creativity! Students who enjoy beets in the spring and fall will notice that the dark red juices from the beets can stain hands, and even clothes.
Because of its strong red color, beets can be used to dye fabric, yarn, paper products and more, making it a perfect vegetable to grow in your school garden for an art activity! When I cook beets, I like to boil them in a pot of water until they’re soft. I then run the beets under cold water and rub off the outer layer of skin. Instead of throwing the beet skins into the compost, try collecting them and putting them in a pot with an inch or two of water. Place the pot over medium heat and simmer the mixture for one hour. Then, remove it from the heat until it is room temperature. Strain the liquid into a cup or bowl using a strainer or cheesecloth. After you’ve strained the dye, throw the solid leftovers into the compost.
Try soaking fabric or yarn in the dye until the desired colors are reached, or dip paper in the dye to make a nice pink tone. Or take a paint brush and lightly color a piece of paper to create a beautiful watercolor painting!
While beets are often used because of their strong coloration, other vegetables can also be used as dyes. Take your spinach that has flowered or bolted and boil it in water until it becomes a light green color. Onion skins and orange peels can also be used as a yellow/orange natural dye. The possibilities are endless. Try experimenting with different vegetable or fruit scraps to see what colors you get!