We’ve always had a veggie garden but eggs are the first real animal protein we ever produced on the farm. Chickens are easy keepers and eggs are a non-invasive (meaning no slaughter necessary) form of food.
When the first three chickens arrived, shortly followed by the first eggs, I was a little hesitant to try them. I always have this strange idea that something I produce will be yucky, gross, or otherwise unpalatable compared to its store-bought equal. Despite this, the first eggs, lovely and brown, were boiled and quickly devoured. I quickly learned that store-bought eggs have nothing on farm-fresh, un-medicated, unpasteurized goodness.
What’s the difference in an egg from the store and an egg from the nest? Well, I don’t know if I can qualify it across the board, but I can speak for my own chickens. On the outside my eggs have thick shells that are noticeably harder to break. They come in a variety of shades ranging from pure white to dark brown. Although many people think that eggs are coloured differently because of how the chickens are fed, the truth is that you can tell what colour an egg will be by the colour of the hen’s earlobes. Yes, hens have earlobes… I kid you not. Occasionally the eggs will be slightly deformed. Not all eggs resemble the perfectly pointed ovals you find at the grocery – au contraire – it is not uncommon to find an egg that’s flat on one side, lumpy and bumpy, or oddly-sized – either miniature or gigantic. Of course chickens who don’t free range, who spend their lives in a 2-foot square box, who are force fed chemicals and medications like drooling junkies – those chickens produce more uniform eggs. Nature isn’t perfect, though, and I think my eggs are better because of it.
On the inside our eggs are different too. Yellow yolks are a factory fact – the yolks in our eggs are orange and thicker, and they’re tastier. The best part is that they’re fresh. Rarely do we eat (or sell) eggs that have existed any more than a week. No need to stamp these eggs with a best before date – they’re gone long before that rolls around.
There is a downside to producing your own eggs, though. You get spoiled. As the days started to get shorter this year the chickens moulted and production slowed until finally there were no eggs to be found. We waited a few days, but it was obvious – the chickens had gone on strike. I was forced to pick up a carton of eggs at the grocery store. It felt like cheating on my chickens.
The egg hiatus lasted a month before I decided I’d had enough. I purchased a cheap light from Canadian Tire and installed it in the coop. I left it on well into the darkest hours. Within a week a couple of eggs appeared, then a few more, and now we’re up to a dozen a day, give or take. Thanks to artificial light I’ll no longer have to eat artificial eggs. I’m fine with that.
What to do with all those eggs? Here’s one suggestion:
Spinach and Red Pepper Quiche
- 1 prepared pie shell
- 1/3 cup roasted red bell pepper, sliced
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 cups packed fresh spinach leaves, trimmed and washed thoroughly (about 5 ounces)
- 1/2 cup chopped portobello mushroom
- 6 large eggs
- 1/3 cup 3% milk
- 1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese
- 1 tsp dry basil
Bake Pie shell in oven for 8 minutes or until golden brown.
in a large skillet sauté bell pepper and mushroom in oil over moderately high heat, stirring, 1 minute. Add spinach and sauté, stirring, until wilted and tender, about 1 minute. Remove skillet from heat and season spinach mixture with salt and pepper. In a small bowl whisk together eggs and milk.
Sprinkle feta over bottom of shell and arrange spinach mixture on top. Pour egg mixture over spinach and bake quiche on a baking sheet in middle of oven 15 minutes. Reduce temperature to 350°F. and bake until set, about 10 minutes.