Eggs have been a valuable source of food since prehistoric times, starting with the early hunting societies and increasing with the domestication of birds. Ancient civilizations such as the Egyptians prized eggs highly, using them as offerings, and large ostrich eggs have even been found in Egyptian tombs.
Eggs from almost every bird – and those from many reptiles – are eaten across different cultures. The following are the eggs most available commercially in the UK:
Chicken eggs: The first chicken domestications can be traced to more than 4,000 BC years ago in China and Southeast Asia. Today these are the most commonly eaten egg, varying in colour from a bright white to different shades of brown.
Duck eggs: Slightly larger than chicken eggs and stronger in flavour. They are available in white and in light green colour, this last one coming from the Mallard duck. Its richness, strong flavour and gelatinous texture makes it better for dessert dishes, especially for baking.
Goose eggs: Very similar in taste to the duck egg but larger in size, goose eggs are very flavourful and better suited for desserts.
Quail eggs: Very small in size and available in a range of colours, from white with spots to light blue. It’s said that five quail eggs are equal to one chicken egg. They have a more delicate flavour than that of chicken and are often hard-boiled and served as an appetizer, hors d’oeuvre or in salads.
Turkey eggs: This cream-coloured egg with brown spots is not available at large commercial levels because of the turkey’s low annual rates of laying.
Pheasant eggs: Available in different shades of white and brown colours. It is smaller than the chicken egg and with a light yolk but a higher yolk-to-white ratio.
Always check the expiration date and try to buy the freshest eggs available. If you are buying eggs from a farmer’s market and they don’t have an expiration date, hold an egg against the light and look for an air bubble at the rounded end. As the egg loses freshness, this air pocket will grow, so the smaller this bubble, the fresher the egg. Another way to measure this air pocket is by putting the egg in a cup of cold water. It if sinks it means it’s still fresh, it floats it means it has too much air inside and is bad.
Eggs don’t need to be refrigerated, but shouldn’t experience temperature changes. If you buy them refrigerated, keep them refrigerated. If you buy then at a market and they are at room temperature, you can leave unrefrigerated, but remember that they’ll always preserve better refrigerated. Eggs easily absorb odours, so keep refrigerated eggs with the carton closed to minimize exposure to other foods. Remove from refrigerator and allow to warm up to room temperature before using.