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The humble egg
Eggs in General
Member Name: moo2moo
Eggs in General
Date: 17/10/09, updated on 17/10/09 (36 review reads)
Advantages: A myriad of uses
Disadvantages: Novelty eggs can be expensive
Theres something rather reassuring about the humble egg. No matter what food fads come and go the egg remains unchanged and entirely as nature intended it. No amount of human intervention can convince a hen to lay more than one a day or to make it any bigger or smaller than the hen decides its going to be. Mostly eggs are egg shaped although once in a while they're elongated and contain double yolks or more often than not they end up with rippled or ridged shells. Its a flaw of nature and theres nothing you can do about it. Not that the average egg consumer will ever come across these natural deviants, if its not entirely egg shaped then it won't make it to the shelves of a supermarket.
Its also very easy to assume that all eggs come from birds. Thats simply not true. Fish lay eggs (caviare), as do insects including ladybirds and beetlesand so do snails, slugs, reptiles and amphibians.
Eggs (from birds) come in a variety of sizes from those of the tiny Jamaican Hummingbird which lay less than a centimetre in length. The largest is by comparison a whopping 20cm long and laid by the ostrich. Not that you're likely to come across these. Far more common place are quail eggs which retail at £2.75 per dozen (Waitrose) although you'd need the entire box to make a small omlette. Also widely available are duck eggs (an aquired taste) which retail at £2.35 per half dozen, they're about half again as big as a hen egg but can be rather overpowering. If you're fortunate enough to have a local Farmers Market then you're likely to come across goose eggs too.
Of course its not only size that varies. Eggs come in a phenomenal range of natural shell colours. Supermarket shoppers will be familiar with the drab browns and pinks of the Lohmann Brown hybrid hen but theres a wealth of other colours too. White ones (White Star), blue ones (Lavender Auracana), green ones (Cream Legbar), chocolate brown ones (Hebden Black) and of course the speckled eggs laid by the Welsummer. They don't taste anydifferent to your ordinary supermarket egg but they certainly liven up your egg basket.
The price of eggs varies dramatically dependant upon the laying breed, the housing conditions, the size of the egg and the type of feed used. You can pay anything from 9.7p per egg (Tesco Value 15s) for an assortment of sizes laid by caged hens to 45.7p per egg (Waitrose Organic Very Large Free Range Columbian Blacktail Hen Eggs) laid by free ranging outdoor hens from small flocks on family farms. Yet another reason to visit a farmers market where you'll be able to buy free range eggs direct from the producer at 16.6p per egg, less if you take your own egg box.
There are almost as many uses for an egg as there are types of egg. The most obvious is to eat them but thats not all, think Faberge (although Faberges eggs were gold replicas) a whole field of art is dedicated to the decoarating of natural eggs there are also a lot of egg related pagan rituals which include pace-egging, the rolling of decorated hard boiled eggs on Easter Monday.
I have to confess I haven't bought eggs in over five years since I moved to a house big enough to keep a few hens in the garden. The few have rapidly expanded to become a very friendly free ranging flock who have the run of the entire garden in winter where they clear weeds and just about everything else edible from the lawn and vegetable plots. In the spring and summer they're confined to chicken land where ground space is roughly 5 square metres per hen, compared to the current legal standards for battery hens of 18 hens per square metre (not a typo) this is positively palatial.
Theres nothing quite like collecting your own breakfast from the hen house in your pajamas and cooking it whilst its still warm but then that nothing compared to watching eggs hatch and the speed at which a chick becomes an adult. 3 weeks from conception to birth. 18-24 weeks to full matuirty (dependant upon breed). Compare this to an intensively reared broiler (aka a supermarket ready to roast chicken) which is slaughtered at 42 days (six weeks). My chicks aren't ready to leave their mum at that age and won't be for another few weeks after that.
Summary: Go dip some soldiers in one
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