An Easter Egg-travaganza!

Spring has sprung in Ohio! The birds are chirping, the flowers are blooming and preparations are underway for the Easter holiday, which includes decorating eggs for display, eating or hiding for an egg hunt.

As the second leading egg-producing state in the nation, Ohio has certainly put its fair share of eggs in Easter baskets. According to the Ohio Poultry Association, the Buckeye State, which is home to more than 40 million egg-laying chickens and young hens, produced more than 7.6 billion eggs in 2011.

Decorating Easter eggs, which has been a popular, centuries-old tradition in many cultures, can range from the easy — immersing a hard-boiled egg into a dye mixture of water, vinegar and food coloring — to the complex, including creating intricate designs from yarn, beads, flowers and even jewels.

In an article about the history of egg coloring, author Peggy Trowbridge Filippone highlights several decorating styles that elevate the Easter egg into a work of art, including traditional techniques from the Ukraine and the Pennsylvania Dutch.

Ukrainians often decorate eggs in a style called pysanky, which is derived from the word for write and involves drawing elaborate designs in wax and then dyeing the eggs. The Pennsylvania Dutch commonly decorate eggs with coils of grass and scraps of calico cloth in a style called binsegraas.

Of course, the most well-known and by far the most expensive Easter eggs were those created by Peter Carl FabergĂ©, a Russian jeweler who designed “eggs” from gold, silver and jewels during the 1800s.

Whether you plan to hide or eat your Easter eggs, food safety is a must. Here are a few tips from the agriculture extension at the University of Arkansas to follow when preparing and handling eggs:

  • Inspect eggs for cracks and only purchase eggs stored in a refrigerated case
  • Store eggs in their original cartons in the refrigerator, not the refrigerator door
  • Raw and cooked eggs shouldn't be left out of the refrigerator for more than two hours
  • Wash hands thoroughly with hot, soapy water and rinse them before handling eggs when cooking, cooling, dyeing and hiding them. Wash your children's hands after they've handled the eggs, too
  • For Easter egg hunts, avoid areas where eggs might come in contact with animals or lawn chemicals
  • Account for all hidden eggs and refrigerate immediately; Discard cracked eggs
  • Refrigerate hard-cooked eggs in their shells and use them within a week
  • Consider cooking two sets of eggs — one for an Easter egg hunt or display and the other for eating
  • For maximum food safety, use plastic Easter eggs filled with candy instead of real eggs

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