It's egg season in our part of the world—yes, eggs have a season, think about it!—with chickens, geese, ducks and more all laying at nearby farms. "But I can buy eggs whenever I want at the grocery store," you think, and that's true. But just like eating a tomato fresh from the vine or ramps recently foraged from the soil, eating in-season eggs means you're getting the real thing, as opposed to the watery versions from confused hens confined to factory life.
A trip to the Union Square Greenmarket revealed a bounty of ova, including multitudes of chicken varietals that would look gorgeous unadorned in an Easter basket and taste even more delicious scrambled with some fresh herbs. Check out what's currently on offer and plan some epic omelets for the weekend. Pro Tip: Get to the market early (like 8 a.m. early) for your best shot getting the eggs you want; these sell out fast.
There are dozens of different kinds of chickens, each of whom lay a different color and pattern of egg shell. Aracaunas come out a lovely shade of sage, Marans are a deep copper color; some eggs are pink and speckled, others appear almost blue in sunlight. Farmer Mary Carpenter of Violet Hill Farms tells us each hen lays eggs with distinct markings, making it easy to tell apart eggs from the farm's 12 breeds of chickens.
We don't have to tell you how to use chicken eggs, though if you've never had a non-industrial egg you should definitely taste it plain (fried, scrambled) before using it as an ingredient in a larger dish.
Turkey and pheasant eggs are the most similar to chicken eggs, as you might imagine. Turkey eggs are a bit larger and also more uniform in color than the chickens, tending towards a tawny with freckles and speckles of different shapes and sizes. Farmers have to be careful when harvesting the eggs during breeding season, as the adult males often get into fights. "It's like The Matrix," explains Carpenter.
The pebbled turkey shell is actually much harder than a chicken's egg, and requires some force to excavate; you'll notice the much larger yolk when you crack it open. Farmer Maria Quattrociocchi likes hers fried over easy. As for the pheasant, they're small, smooth and brown, with a plump round yolk and clear white.
At Violet Hill Farms 200 acres in Sullivan County, New York, the chickens, ducks and turkeys are allowed to wander over five to six acres, which tasks farmers with walking the paddocks and finding the eggs. "The ducks are the worst," laments Carpenter. "Once you pick their eggs, they move their nest. With chickens, it takes a few times."
Duck eggs come in blues and browns and even black. When cooked, duck eggs get much puffier than chicken eggs, making them perfect for dishes like quiche and souffle.
GOOSE EGGS (Available at Quattro's)
When we visited Quattro's, Quattrociocchi told us a chef had already bought the farm's supply of goose eggs, with plans to use them to make pasta; Telepan is also a regular customer. They're well-suited to the task, with a nice thick, difficult-to-break yolk; the farm tells us it would be a "waste" to use the eggs in an omelet.
They're a beautiful, pristine white (when washed), with a smooth, oblong shape that's much longer than a chicken's egg. Just be glad you aren't tasked with harvesting them, as the birds are known to charge farmers, wings spread wide and honking up a storm.
OSTRICH EGGS (Available at Roaming Acres Farm)
The most exotic of the offerings at the greenmarket, ostrich eggs aren't something you're going to buy on the regular. At Whole Foods, they can be procured for a gasp-inducing $45; at the market, they're just $30. Roaming Acres incubates 90% of their ostrich eggs to produce more birds to eventually slaughter for meat, so they don't always have them for sale; the birds can lay between 30 and 40 eggs per season.
Still, if you manage to snag one, they're not only an incredible conversation piece—you can dry out and keep the shell—they'll also feed several grownups for a week on a single egg. One ostrich egg weighs about three pounds and equals approximately 24 chicken eggs. Ostrich and emu farmer Todd Appelbaum offers a pro-tip to deal with the huge yolk and sheer volume of the egg's contents: violently shake the egg before cutting it, essentially pre-scrambling the insides. Then, either crack it with a knife (if you don't want to save the shell) or cut a hole at one end and dump the contents into a bowl.