by Deb Morris, Pacific Coast Farmers Market
Ever wondered why shells on chicken eggs are different colors? The shells range in colors from the usual white, to shades of cream, tan and brown, to light and dark turquoise.
A chicken’s genes determine their eggshell color. You can tell what color of egg they will lay by looking at their earlobes. A hen has earlobes, you say? Yes, even though their ears are covered with feathers, the chicken’s earlobes are visible and come in different colors. White-feathered chickens with white earlobes lay white eggs; red or brown chickens with red earlobes lay brown eggs; blue to green chicken eggs come from the Araucana, a breed of chicken developed in Chile. Araucanas have also been crossed with other breeds to produce the Americauna, sometimes called the “Easter egg chicken” because of multicolored eggs.
The color of a chicken’s feathered coat is irrelevant to the color of eggs; chickens actually come in a wide range of shapes, colors, and sizes which run the gamut from the strange-looking Frizzled Cochin to the sleek black and white Lakenvelders.
Originally, all chicken eggs were probably brown. Over time, selective breeding for white eggs became the norm. It wasn’t until the late 20th century when brown eggs were reintroduced, and then came the return of those breeds with bluish-colored eggs, although breeders and farmers were obviously familiar with them.
Eggs of different colors are essentially identical in flavor, with the taste itself determined by the chicken’s diet. Have you ever cracked open a farm-fresh egg to discover a deep rich yellow yolk? Compare that to the pale yellow yolks you get in supermarket eggs! Pasture-raised chickens are free to roam and eat insects, grass, and other natural foods in their environment. They are free to consume the dietary minerals they need, which is passed down to the eggs and the shells.
Some really beautifully-colored eggs can be found at the farmers’ market. Visit Great Valley Poultry in Manteca, Clara’s Egg Farm from Royal Oaks, or Nojaba Farms from Gustine. Their birds offer some of the best eggs around.
Asparagus and Egg Salad
1 dozen medium eggs
1 pound asparagus
1 tablespoon dill, or other asparagus-compatible herb like basil, chervil, chive, scallion, thyme or tarragon
1 cup mayonnaise
Salt and pepper to taste
Hard boil a dozen eggs. Cool completely, peel, and dice. Prepare asparagus while your eggs are cooling by washing and snapping off the hard ends. Cut off the tips and cook separately, reserving for garnish. Slice the stalks into thin rounds; blanch in boiling salted water for 20 seconds. The tips are larger, so let them blanch for 30 seconds to 1 minute, until tender but not mushy. Cool in cold running water. Drain and mix with the diced eggs, dill, mayonnaise and salt and pepper to taste. Recipe: Chef Marisa Ades, Cookin’ the Market, PCFMA. Find out how to make your own mayonnaise at pcfma.org/eat/recipes.