pullet–an egg of a different size

Farmers’ markets have long been high on my list of what I love about summer. In recent years, it’s been especially fun to see market offerings expand beyond produce. Even the smallest of farmers’ markets often feature artisan honey, maple syrup, bread, ice cream, chocolate, and the like.

At last year’s St. Paul farmers’ market, I happened upon a sign advertising an entire flat of eggs (30 of them!) for $1. Wow. Considering I pay more than that for a dozen conventional eggs, this seemed a bargain. Looking more closely, I noticed that these eggs were much smaller than the standard large egg. An accompanying sign named them as pullet eggs. Ah ha. I bought two flats and returned as often as they were available for the same purchase. Yes, these eggs were small, but their flavor was fresh and lovely. As well,  pullets are reputed to have higher amounts of omega-3 fatty acids than eggs laid by full-grown chickens. But their biggest sell was their cute factor–how could I not buy them?

in the carton

pullet vs large

I’ve learned since that pullets are eggs laid by hens under 1-year of age. Thekitchn website describes these eggs as coming “from chickens who are just getting the hang of laying eggs. They are noticeably smaller than regular eggs and can even occasionally be quite tiny as the hens work out their learning curve.”

My mom gets a kick out of my searching pullet eggs out and notes that when she was growing up, pullet eggs were second-rate because of their size. If you had enough money, you’d always go for the larger eggs. And here I am seeking them out as “specialty” foods.

Callister Farms, where I found last year’s egg bargain, had run out of pullet layers by the time I made it to the market this year. Another vendor, Gilbertson Farms, offered them for $4 a dozen and though this was steeper than I’d paid, I jumped at the chance to bring them home. The vendor said she had only had two dozen pullet eggs to bring to the market that day and my purchase, made an hour before the market’s close, finally cleaned her out. “I’d like to sell more,” she lamented, “but people just don’t know what they are.” I see this changing as these tiny eggs are gems.

frying up

looks like sunshine

backyard chickens and a scrambled egg

My youngest and I took a most excellent field trip this morning. Janice, a friend and colleague, invited us over to see her backyard chickens. As a talented recipe developer and food writer, Janice blogs about her chickens (and other food-related topics) and also has written a cookbook about her experiences–Chicken and Egg: A Memoir of Suburban Homesteading with 125 Recipes.

Janice’s chickens are gorgeous. The three older ones ran about her beautifully landscaped backyard, pecking at grains and hiding behind trees. The two baby silkies are kept in a large pen until they’re old enough to frolic with the others, though they did come out to be held. They all have names (Cleo, Ruby, Roxanne, Isabelle, and Jasmine) and looked like they were having the time of their lives. Janice said she started keeping chickens for their eggs, but soon came to appreciate and love them for their distinct personalities.

I loved that my daughter could see a piece of urban farming. As well, she was seeing a woman following a personal passion to the extent that she brought it into her professional life. Janice was kind enough to send a freshly laid egg home with my daughter (padded well in paper towels and a plastic bag for safe transport), so we scrambled it up for her lunch.

Even in its shell, the egg was gorgeous. A very pale brown, it made conventional supermarket eggs look ho-hum.

pretty pretty

Cracked into a bowl, the egg was still a stunner: A perfectly round sunny and golden yolk surrounded by a crystal clear white.

cracked open–beautiful

On the plate, the egg was fresh and rich and it tasted real. I only got a bite as it was my daughter’s lunch, but the bite I had confirmed that fresh eggs taste far better than what you buy in the mainstream stores.

scrambled

Buying organic eggs exclusively isn’t in my budget, but I treat myself during farmers’ market season. I will add Janice’s book to my collection, though, as it promises to be a good read containing creative and solid recipes. And my 6-year-old now has memories of holding a chicken (two, actually) in her lap, finding an egg not too long after it’s been laid, and taking said egg home for lunch. It was indeed an excellent field trip.