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Lay, Ladies, Lay

It amazes me that these things pop out of our little chickens nearly once a day. How do their bodies produce eggs so quickly? With their hard, calcium shells and all? I’m awed by this, and by the quality and flavor of what’s inside these shells: fat marigold yolks, suspended in a gelatinous clear orb of white. Sunny-side up eggs, just sprinkled with sea salt, has never been so satisfying. Why is this so easy? What could we be doing so right?

Truth is, you don’t have to do a whole lot to raise chickens and have eggs every day. That’s the beauty of these feathered friends. For the pleasure of getting to watch them mill around in their run, give them food and water, and perform the not-so-fun task of cleaning the poop from their coop (hidden bonus: it helps make great compost), I get these eggs every day. Thanks, ladies! I recently had the pleasure of meeting the farmer who had raised our ladies from chicks to the one-year-old, egg-producing hens that they are now. Farmer Billiam von Roestenberg from Liberty View Farm was in attendance at a chicken meetup hosted by Just Food and held at Eagle Street Rooftop Farm, which also has hens from Liberty View. “Don’t worry,” he told me after we chatted a bit about their care. “Chickens are easy.” And so far, they are.

Yoko and MeiMei But I’m curious about what I could be doing to raise them better, and maybe produce even better eggs. What you put in, in terms of their care and diet, is what you get in return, so I’ve learned. The hens’ feed has a direct correlation to the eggs they produce. So is taking care of the chickens really well the first step to cooking a really great omelet? What came first, the chicken raising (and feeding) or the egg?

Chickens are omnivores, like humans, so they can eat a great variety of things and thrive on well-rounded diet. They love a little protein from bugs and worms, calcium from oyster shells, and vitamins from leaves, grasses and flowers. Sweet fruits and cracked grains don’t hurt, either. I’ve found a better use for the wonderberries I wrote about last week: watching the hens scramble for them as I pop them into the coop. In fact, anything sweet seems to be like crack for the ladies. They go mad for pea shoots and clover, too. I just got a stevia plant which is so sweet it almost hurts your teeth, and can’t wait to see what happens when I try feeding them that. Here’s a quick clip of the ladies getting a little treat!

In Keeping Chickens, Ashley English notes that you’ll want to avoid feeding your birds onions, chives and other alliums, “because it will affect the eggs’ taste.” If you can hardwire eggs to taste like onions, that is one fascinating possibility. Ashley, do the eggs taste like, say, dill, if I feed them dill? What if I feed them lots of chocolate?

I’m getting carried away, but the main reason I’m so interested in this topic is because it underscores something universal about food. What we eat, as humans, directly influences our output, too. We may not lay eggs, but there are many ways that our diets manifest in us, every day. For instance, fresh vegetables and fruits energizes me, makes me wake up and take notice of more things. When I eat a very rich, heavy meal, I often feel weighted down and dull. When I eat something just downright delicious, I naturally feel bliss for the time being. But sometimes it can cause a toothache, if it’s has too much sugar. And so on. That’s why I try to cook and share recipes for good, healthy food, during one of the most crucial times of the day for an energy surge: lunchtime. Because, shouldn’t we all be feeling our best if we can help it?

And how about breakfast? Here’s a recipe for a satisfying breakfast made the other day, with the chickens’ eggs, and a lot of fresh mint that I had in excess.

Mint & Parmesan Frittata and Purple Viking Potato Quick-Hash Browns
(makes 2 servings)

5 eggs
1/3 cup milk
1/2 cup grated parmesan
1/2 cup packed mint leaves, chopped
pinch of red pepper flakes
about 1/2 lb purple viking (or another waxy, small-ish potato, like red or Yukon gold)
1 shallot, sliced
salt and pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil

Cut the potatoes into halves or pieces of roughly equal size. Bring a pot of water to boil, and par-boil the potatoes until just about halfway cooked (3-4 minutes depending on size). Drain. Heat a tablespoon of the oil in a skillet or sautee pan. Add the shallot and cook over medium heat for 2-3 minutes. Place the drained potatoes cut down-side on the pan and season with pinches of salt and pepper. Cook a few more minutes, stirring occasionally, and increasing heat to medium-high until nicely browned. Remove from heat. Toss in a handful of the chopped mint and remove from pan onto serving plates.

Preheat broiler. Add another tablespoon of oil to the pan and heat over medium. Whisk the eggs with the remaining mint, salt, pepper, chili flakes and half the grated parmesan. Pour onto pan. Nudge the cooked edges of the egg mixture toward the center of the pan with your spatula as it cooks, to spread more runny mixture onto the pan. After about a minute of this, sprinkle on the rest of the parmesan and transfer pan to the broiler. Cook about another minute, or just until browned and cooked through. Divide into portions and plate with the potatoes.


Comment from Yvo
Time July 5, 2010 at 7:32 am

Congrats on the new blog, Cathy! A logical progression from not eating out, and the design is beautiful!
The eggs look great too – I can’t believe you have chickens up there too! (I’m actually jealous.) I’ve only had fresh eggs a handful of times and they are amazing. Can’t wait to see what you cook up next with the garden… but the real question is… when are you going to open up lunch at Six Point to the general, paying public? :)

Comment from Tires
Time July 3, 2011 at 2:11 pm

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Pingback from Eggs: The poor man’s protein [Recipes] | Grist
Time March 9, 2012 at 7:25 pm

[…] eggs is too much for your pocket, you might consider keeping hens yourself. I’ve been raising hens on the rooftop garden I tend at Sixpoint Brewery in Brooklyn, so I’m well aware of how plentiful the eggs can be when you raise just three hens; my ladies […]

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