I feel like the luckiest person in the world sometimes–especially when it has to do with good food. I have a terrific and generous neighbor, Robert Z., who likes to raise chickens in his yard. The problem is, he is good at it–and very kind to his animals– so sometimes he gets more eggs than he and his family can eat.
That’s where I luck out. He knows I love his fresh eggs–especially the blue ones–and the tiny ones. Every once in a while he knocks on my door with egg cartons in his hands! I can hardly wait to take them from him and look inside the cartons. Sometimes they still have straw and dirt stuck to them–which is just fine with me! He goes out into his yard everyday and has to hunt for where the chickens have laid their eggs–and sometimes that’s in straw and sometimes they’re in mud. It can be a real treasure hunt!
This last visit, the other day, he brought me four dozen eggs! Some of them were so big they didn’t fit in the carton, many were blue and some were so tiny that almost two could fit into one space in the egg carton.
And the real surprise, and bonus, is that they are fresher than any store-bought eggs. I usually buy fancy, free-range, organic chicken eggs at the store–which are much better than ordinary grocery store eggs. But Robert Z.’s eggs put all those other eggs to shame.
Robert Z.’s eggs have dramatically dark yellow yolks. In the blue Ameraucana eggs, the yolks are usually orange in color. The Italian word for “yolk” is “rosso d’uovo”–rosso is the color “red”–so perhaps yolks are supposed to be this dark in color–when the chickens have a really good diet themselves!
Robert Z.’s yard has a creek that runs through it and often when I drive past his house I can see the chickens in the creek eating all the little bugs and critters in the water. Some of those are crustaceans with bright red, yellow and orange-colored pigments–and those are the compounds that carry over and contribute to the beautiful colors of these yolks. Free ranging chickens get to eat all kinds of things–which adds all of those bonus nutrients and biological antioxidant compounds that are turning out to be so good for us. The corn they eat also contributes significant amounts of the yellow and orange pigments lutein and zeaxanthin–the two carotenoid compounds that may help prevent macular degeneration blindness and cataract development in adults.
The white of the eggs is also very firm and not at all watery–which is the mark of a very fresh egg. When you crack it into a pan, the white stands up like a clear platform rather than a watery smear. The shells are so hard they are difficult to crack (I’m not complaining!) I have to crack them to the side of what I’m making so I don’t get egg shell shrapnel into my food! I have never purchased eggs like this in a store–no matter how much I’ve spent.
And, saving the best for last, they are the best tasting eggs I’ve ever had. They have more flavor than grocery store eggs. Some people might think the flavor is too strong–but I think it’s just the way a healthy egg made by a healthy chicken should taste.
Thank you Robert Z.!
Addendum: Robert Z. has many different kinds of chickens including one rooster who is a black-tailed Japanese Bantam chicken
A pair of black-tailed Japanese Bantam chickens:
and Ameraucana females who lay the blue eggs: (photo by communitychickens.com)
and this is similar to Robert Z’s Ameraucana rooster:
or it looks like this Faverolles cock, too:
Robert also has Barred Plymouth Rock chickens:
Photographs by Ann Del Tredici unless otherwise noted.
© 2012 Ann M. Del Tredici, MS, RD, CDE