Friday, November 23, 2012

The Egg Hunt

The Egg Hunt.

I have a new foraging item that has become an exciting, and sometimes frustrating, search. My whole life I have noticed these little "eggs for sale" signs out all around the Comox Valley, and practically everywhere else in my travels. Anywhere that there is rural areas, you will find people who are raising backyard chickens. From four hens in a chicken tractor to several dozen, complete with roosters, egg "hunting" is something that is accessible to everyone and there is probably one close by your own house.

The pure thrill in opening up a cooler at the end of someones driveway, seeing it chocker block full of cartons of eggs. Four dollars a dozen! You have to be kidding me. Wow. Look at those eggs. They are beautiful. Oh look over there, I see the hens. They look so happy. They are scratching for bugs. Nibbling grass. They are so healthy. The rooster looks so proud of his brood. Oh man, how much change do I have. 

These are the thoughts that go through my head when visiting one of these roadside egg "stores". The product is so wonderful. The whites are thick, and stand on their own, the yolks are bright yellow and plump.  The ability to purchase all this incredible protein for a very reasonable price from someone in your community is a marvelous introduction to buying food outside the grocery store. Many times you would be able to meet the people who are raising the hens, ask them questions about the birds, go look at the housing and yard( the chickens, not the property owners). If that isn't something the seller is interested in, maybe have a look for another vendor. Transparency is not usually a problem with small local growers. 

If you are someone who is interested in foraging, but are not sure where to start, searching for eggs in this way is considered foraging, in my opinion. In Paleolithic times man would search high and low for eggs of various game birds. Especially in the spring, when wild birds do their breeding and hatching the young. We are lucky that most of the year we can access eggs from chicken hens without having to climb trees to raid nests. Get in the car, or better yet, the bicycle and go explore. Load up with some twonies and loonies and some way to transport the delicate orbs. Once a good spot has been located, other products maybe available from the same grower. I know egg vendors who also sell cut flowers, fruit, vegetables and many also sell frozen cuts of grass fed meat that are available with a quick phone call. 

When I find some eggs, I often will buy two, three or sometimes four dozen. Eggs will stay fresh in the refrigerator for two weeks. If I am not going to use them all that quickly, I will pickle them. Pickled eggs will be fine in the fridge, packed in vinegar and water, for months. These make for a quick snack or lunch on the run. Mixed with some local vegetables, regardless of the season, fresh eggs will yield a delicious omelette or fritata. I usually add ham or bacon to mine for a little extra punch of protein and wonderful flavor. Of course you can make other great dishes with eggs, including some of the best sauces, like hollandaise, mayonaise and ceasar dressing. 

Once you have established an egg source, I recommend finding a couple more. Since most places will only have a few dozen at a time for sale, they sell out quickly. Many times I have emptied someones cooler, and wished there were more available. More sources builds food security in your life and helps to create community by supporting those who work so hard to make our sustenance. Regardless of what you think about the price of food, we get a bargain when shopping locally. Even if the eggs cost $6, we are still ahead. Ignore the price at the grocery store. Most high production facilities use subsidized corn as feed, and subsidized fuel usage, so the true cost isn't passed along to the consumer.Read this article of a young lady in Colorado and her experience poultry farming. In a way the costs are passed on, in increased tax burden and health care costs. We don't generally think about those costs, but they are there and  very real. 

For your health, the health of your community, and health of the earth sourcing more of your food locally is so crucial. By switching some of your spending slowly but surely, you will gain confidence and realize how easy and varied the products that are grown and available in your community. I thank each and everyone who makes the effort to grow delicious food for us.

Super funny video about pickling! Thanks Mado:)