The Easter hen came a-layin'
Easter came a day early for me when I returned home from an early morning blessing and grand reopening celebration at the Louis Vuitton store at Ala Moana Center, to find that recent high winds had blown a bird nest out of my mango tree.
It was a small nest, likely meijiro, and appeared to have been long abandoned, so I tried tossing it in my compost heap, in a repurposed water fountain, from about four feet away. But the winds picked up and blew it off course. As I walked over to pick it up off the ground, there was a huge commotion as I shared the terror of the chicken that came clucking and flying off the compost heap.
I had purposely filled the heap with thorny bougainvillea branches just to keep chickens from digging up the compost. I don't mind their churning leaves and dirt, but in doing so, they also eat the worms that help break down the dried leaves, grass and vegetable scraps.
My whole yard is often overrun by feral chickens, and as much as I try to scare them off, they keep coming back, not only digging up dirt but pavement foundations, causing a lot of destruction. Finally, I set up a trap last week, baiting it with corn and peanuts. The only thing is, the trap attracted the doves that roost in the eaves of my house. They set up camp near the trap, nestled in the ground, none stupid enough to actually enter the trap, but smart enough to enjoy the free meal.
Perhaps the presence of food also made the chicken feel at home enough to start nesting in the compost? The number of eggs roughly corresponds to the time the cage appeared, at about an egg a day, if two chickens are involved. The brown egg would have come from a second chicken.
I wasn't about to allow more chickens to hatch and continue their path of destruction. But then I was faced with the dilemma of whether or not it was safe to eat the eggs. Of course I was going to try out of pure foodie instinct. But as a city slicker, it dawned on me that I knew nothing about how to eat an egg straight from a chicken.
A craving for eggs usually means heading straight to the grocery store and picking up a carton. So what does the modern person do when he/she has a question? We put it to our lifeline, our Facebook friends, whose responses ranged from, "Don't eat them," to "If there's something inside, isn't that just balut?"
The most helpful came from my sister-in-law Laurie Jacobs, who referred me to two websites http://www.thekitchn.com/kitchen-tip-testing-eggs-for-f-46368 for testing eggs for freshness and embryos http://lancaster.unl.edu/4h/embryology/candling.shtml
The last thing I wanted to find on cracking one open was balut, or, for those not familiar with the Filipino delicacy, the developing embryo.
At any rate, the eggs were dirty from sitting underneath the mother, so I did what came naturally and washed them.
I had to go out again, so I simply left the eggs sitting on the counter for the rest of the day.
About midnight, when I had a chance to rest and read up about my eggs, I learned that washing destroys the protective bloom that coats the eggs and prevents bacteria from entering the porous shell. Washing pulls in bacteria, which can grow quickly at room temperature, so washed eggs should be eaten immediately, or stored in the refrigerator.
With bloom in place, eggs will stay fresh in your refrigerator for about 8-1/2 weeks.
Reading on, I had to get out of bed to candle the eggs, holding them up to the light to see whether there is anything solid inside. Satisfied that none of the eggs held chicks, I looked forward to a breakfast of scrambled eggs on Easter morning.
The benefits of fresh eggs is that, compared to typical store-bought, pasteurized eggs, they contain:
>> 1⁄3 less cholesterol
>> 1⁄4 less saturated fat
>> 2⁄3 more vitamin A
>> Two times more Omega-3 fatty acids
>> Three times more vitamin E
>> Seven times more beta carotene
>> Four to six times more vitamin D
There was one more test to perform before actually cooking the eggs. Because I don't peer into the compost heap every day, I had no idea when the eggs started appearing and how old they were. The water test, for freshness, can be performed with a glass of room temperature water.
Place the egg in the glass and see how it falls. If it lands on the bottom of the glass on its side and stays there, it's a good egg. If it stands on one end, it's older, meaning air has entered the shell, but you may still be able to eat it hard-boiled. If it floats, it's full of air and gasses and should be discarded.
On Facebook, chicken expert Sandy Tsukiyama put it much more dramatically and colorfully: "Floats = danger of exploding pilau, but pretty, turquoise-colored, sulphurized contents all over. Carefully wrap in newspaper & dispose asap!"
Finally satisfied that the eggs were edible, I cracked one open, relieved to find a perfect yolk inside, just as described as being more golden than the typical supermarket egg.
Then came a second and a third, and I soon had a perfect Easter breakfast of fresh scrambled eggs. I will make omelettes of the others and hope the chickens come back with more peace offerings.