The Best Eggs You Aren’t Eating
Not all eggs come from chickens. That’s not always easy to remember when you’re staring at the stacks and stacks of cartons filled with plain white eggs at your grocery store every week. But it’s true, and some of the tastiest eggs out there come from non-clucking birds like ducks, quail, and even ostriches! So if you want to add a little diversity to your diet—and fortify it with a wider variety of nutrients, vitamins and minerals—get your mind out of the hen house and look for these tasty alternatives.
Higher in protein, calcium, iron, potassium, and pretty much every major mineral than chicken eggs, duck eggs are a good first step away from chicken eggs if you don’t consider yourself a very adventurous eater. They taste virtually identical to chicken eggs, and are about the same size, so you can substitute duck eggs into your recipes very easily. Their shells, however, are much thicker.
In the U.S., quail eggs are treated as gourmet foods, gracing the pages of magazines like Martha Stewart Living and Gourmet. But in Vietnam, they’re the cheapest eggs you can buy, much more so than chicken eggs. You can devil them, boil them, even pickle them, if you like. And because they’re so small (about a quarter the size of a chicken egg), they’re great as finger foods or appetizers. But their shells, speckled in a variety of colors, also make great table decorations.
Goose eggs are equivalent to about three large chicken eggs, and their shells are much harder. Buying a blown shell (one whose yolk and white has already been removed) can run you upwards of $14 at a crafts store, whereas a single egg is as little as $2. To have your eggshell and eat your egg too, poke a hole in either end of the egg, and blow the egg out into a bowl yourself. Make yourself a goose-egg frittata and use the eggshell for decoration.
Ostrich eggs have been eaten since the days of the Phoenicians, and for good reason: A single ostrich egg is so big that it can feed ten people. Roughly equivalent to two-dozen chicken eggs, they can weigh as much as five pounds. If you were to hard-boil an ostrich egg, it would take an hour and a half! The market for edible ostrich eggs is still relatively small in the U.S., so your best best is to look online.
Emu eggs are also fairly large, equivalent to roughly eight chicken eggs. They’re popular in the art world, and you may actually have an easier time finding a blown emu egg for decorative purposes than an edible one. Their distinct green outer layer hides a blue middle layer and a white base layer, and artists get really creative with etching and carving them. Emu laying season runs from around November to March or April in the U.S., so that’s the best time to source them.
If you can get your hands on some edible turkey eggs, you may be surprised at how well this bird tastes when it’s not on your Thanksgiving table. Many farmers don’t sell turkey eggs simply because the birds that hatch from them are far more valuable for their meat. But a few small-scale producers wind up with breeds of turkeys that can’t be bred but still lay eggs. Their eggs are reportedly creamier in taste than chicken eggs, and about one and a half times bigger, so you need fewer of them in your baking. And like quail eggs, turkey eggs have curiously speckled shells that make them quite decorative.
Heirloom Chickens eggs
Adventurous though your palate may be, sometimes it’s nice to stick with something more traditional. But don’t relegate yourself to the same old white eggs you find at the grocery store. If you can find a nearby farmer raising heirloom chicken breeds, the color palette of shells gets much broader, because different breeds lay different colored eggs, ranging from greens and blues to dark brown and speckled.
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