What's in Season at the Farmers Market: Soledad Goats' Eggs
Thinking of eggs as a seasonal crop might be a paradigm line some seasonal eaters aren't ready to cross. But consider for a moment the current state of the egg. We've been conveniently and cheaply inundated with mass-produced ova for decades, and all of them are predominantly produced from static, generic chicken feed. The resulting egg is consistent but uninteresting, bland and sometimes old, with watery albumen and a yolk the color of pale lemons. Animal welfare issues surrounding cramped battery cages add an unethical bitterness overcome only, perhaps, by the price tag -- around $2 a dozen vs. $6 or $8 for verifiably humane, organic and locally laid eggs.
Felicia Friesema Eggs from Soledad Goats at the Hollywood market
Soledad Goats out in Mojave is well known for its excellent goat cheese, including an exceptional sharp and nutty aged Monterey Jack. But we were surprised at how many people praised Soledad's eggs, and even more astonished at how quickly it sold out (they disappeared within an hour of opening at last Sunday's Hollywood farmers market). To explain, chef Ernest Miller at the Farmer's Kitchen handed over two fried eggs from Soledad -- no seasoning added -- and a fork.
The secret to the egg success, says Soledad Goats' co-owner Julian Pearce, is twofold. For one, his two flocks of Barred Rock (brown eggs) and Araucana (blue and green eggs) chickens are fed primarily Hollywood Farmers Market fruits and vegetables. Everything from apples to zucchini, plus whatever they pick up roaming the chicken yard, make up their feed. The second key is the nutrient-packed whey leftovers from the farm's constant cheesemaking.
Felicia Friesema Julian Pearce, co-owner of Soledad Goats, feeding one of the bottle baby goats at the Hollywood market
"The whey, which is packed with protein, boosts the flavor of the whites and helps the whites stand up," says Pearce. "I'm not an egg person myself. But I think because they're fed naturally and are free to run and do what they want, it makes for a really good-tasting egg. And the whey definitely has an influence on the flavor of the whites."
But back to the taste test. Pearce added that the birds get a lot of fennel and strawberries this time of year, which explained how we could taste a little anise in the eggs we tried. Fennel-infused eggs during springtime? Does that mean come fall we could expect pumpkin-tasting eggs? It's entirely possible, and that, along with the knowledge that Pearce's birds have ample room to roam until they take their last natural breath (table retirement is not an option for any of the animals at Soledad), makes the $6-per-dozen price tag a little more understandable.
You can find Soledad Goats (sometimes with actual baby goats in tow) at the Hollywood, Pacific Palisades, Newhall, Sherman Oaks, Northridge and Echo Park farmers markets.