The aphorism “eggs is eggs” or “as sure as eggs” refers to an event being certain to happen. However, when it comes to actual eggs, the saying takes on a more literal meaning: eggs basically taste the same. Chicken, duck, goose, quail or turkey eggs. There isn’t a lot in it flavour-wise, or at least: the differences are subtle.
That said… eggs are lovely. We love eggs. Nutritional super-foods: complete protein, phospholipids and choline, all in a neat little package… brilliant. As a family we get through several hundred every year. Whilst the bulk of these are common-or-garden chicken eggs we do like to try something a little more exotic from time to time.
For more on their nutrition, health credentials and some interesting egg feeding studies (!) see our in-depth article: Eggs – not just for Easter
So what are we waiting for… let’s get cracking!
White Duck Eggs
Larger than a typical large hen’s egg, white duck eggs beautiful beautiful shells that almost glow from within. Their robust shells take an extra hard crack to break them open. That thick shell also helps them stay fresh for longer, although in our house they don’t stick around long enough to test this!
Free-range ducks eat slugs, insects and pondweed. That may not sound appetising but it makes their eggs particularly nutritious: higher in omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D. They are also higher in protein than hen’s eggs.
When fried, their large golden yolks look spectacular and the whites shine with a brilliance you don’t get from a hen’s egg. Here they are served with bacon: look at those yolks! Beautiful, eh?
Ducks are quite productive. Like hens, ducks have been bred for laying and produce nearly as many eggs per year as good laying hens. Consequently, their eggs are the most affordable after standard hen’s eggs.
Where to buy
Duck eggs come in many colours, but the white ones are available from many farmers markets and supermarkets starting from just over £2 per half dozen for free-range.
Able and Cole offer organic duck eggs for £3.65 for a half dozen.
We had our first turkey eggs recently. They were lovely looking things: speckled, pointed and just a fraction larger than the white duck eggs. But they were a little expensive at £1 each.
These would make a wonderful boiled egg for Easter breakfast, although I’m not sure they are available then. Unlike ducks and hens, turkeys are not productive layers, being bred principally for their meat. Nevertheless, these eggs were a real treat.
The shells were even harder to break than the duck eggs, the yolks large and the whites voluminous.
The yolks got baked into baked avocado eggs and the whites used to make parmesan macaroons (recipe coming soon!)
Where to buy
Turkey Eggs are only available in season (Spring to Early Summer) so keep your eye open and get them while you can.
Two large speckled Clarence Court Turkey Eggs are sold by Waitrose, currently for £2.99, but we picked them up for £1.99
Goose eggs are huge. A single egg will fill the palm of one hand, but you probably couldn’t hold two! The yolk alone is larger than a whole hen’s egg and often deep orange in colour. At roughly 140g they are twice the weight of a turkey egg and three times that of a large hens egg.
The shells are matt white, and very hard. When blown the strong shells are perfect for painting, dying or decorating.
We have been able to pick these up at Middle-Farm near Lewes in East Sussex from time to time. We love them soft boiled for breakfast. A single egg makes a substantial breakfast.
Where to buy
Like turkey eggs, goose eggs are seasonal: look put for them between February and August. Geese lay 30 to 40 eggs per year — only a seventh as many as a laying hen, so they are relatively expensive, but still cheaper and more nutrtious than a chocolate Easter egg!
Bantams are a small breed of chicken. These hens lay eggs which are about half the weight of a hens’ eggs, each one being about 32g. Compared to normal hens eggs, bantam eggs have more yolk and less white, with the yolk comprising 50% of the total. They make a rich scrambled egg.
These are the bambinos of the egg world; dinky, speckled little things: only one fifth the weight of a medium sized hens egg. Even a dozen of them would make a pretty small omelette, but that’s not the best way to use them.
As a food, they work well hard boiled as bite-size cocktail and canapés, or soft boiled added to salads. The downside is the fiddly task of peeling them. Peeling these cute eggs is, however, easier if you do it promptly. Boil, cool, peel. Don’t leave the peeling stage for later.
One way round this is to buy pickled quails eggs. A jar of these can be added to a salad at a moment’s notice, or used as an accompaniment to a cheese board or with cured meats. They go well with olives or anchovies too. And you will appreciate not having to peel them.
Where to buy
A few years ago quails eggs – including pickled and ready to eat (boiled, shelled) varieties were easy to find in most UK supermarkets, but the availability is now considerably restricted. I could only find pickled quails eggs on eBay!
Clarence Court seems to be the main supplier right now, via Waitrose: fresh for £2.70, and ready-to-eat for £3.99 per dozen. Alternatively, you can order them online from Fine Food Specialist for £3.75 for 18 fresh eggs, or boiled, peeled, bottled for £23.95 for 48. Empire Bespoke Foods offer 160g bottle for £7.86 on Amazon
Ostrich, Emu, Rhea, Gull & Pheasant Eggs
Pushing the boat out even further, there are many other eggs that are available in season.
These kings of the egg world are absolutely huge, taking 50 minutes to soft boil. Each one has the volume of two dozen hens eggs and weigh up to 2kg.
Emu eggs are occasionally sold in the UK. The shell is a very distinct bluish-grey colour a bit like granite, and although they are smaller than ostrich eggs they are still very large, being roughly equivalent to 10 hen’s eggs. They lay from late November to early May so look out for them in the winter months. With a 50/50 yolk to white they are very rich.
Rheas have been called the American Ostrich. Their eggs, however, are smaller, but at 600g are still huge and very close in size to that of the Emu. They have a creamy colouration. Available between March and June.
Pheasant eggs are available April to June. They are half the size of a hens egg, but bigger than quail.
Wild Black Gull Eggs
Perhaps the most exotic of all: a UK spring-time delicacy. These wild eggs are collected under strict licensing that limits the number of pickers and the number of eggs that can be gathered each day. These regulations ensure the practice is fully sustainable. Their speckled blue-grey shells are particularly pretty, but they are very difficult to get hold of. And expensive. Top London restaurants will feature them in season.
Guinea Fowl Eggs
Some say the eggs of the guinea hen are the most delicious of all. Somewhat smaller than a hens egg, these are rarely available. If you know someone who keeps Guinea Fowl you might be in luck. We have never had the pleasure of partaking of them but if you have, do tell (comments below please).
Where to buy
- Clarence Court (full range here) is a major UK supplier of specialist eggs “We offer the widest range of eggs sold in Britain, from Burford Brown, Old Cotswold Legbar, Ostrich, Duck and Guinea Fowl, to Goose, Pheasant, Rhea, Turkey, Emu and Quail.” They don’t sell direct, but their website can help you find a stockist
- Fine Food Specialists list Wild Gulls Eggs at £7.95 a piece.
- First Choice Produce is a wholesale supplier who lists Quail, Duck, Pheasant, Guinea fowl, Partridge, Turkey, Ostrich and Emu eggs. All seasonal.
|Soft Boiled (minutes)||Hard Boiled (minutes)|
|Duck / Large hen’s||3½-4||9-10|
- Introduction to Pheasant Eggs (First Choice Produce)
- Gull’s Eggs: A Chef’s Guide (First Choice Produce)
- British Eggs: A Chef’s Guide (First Choice Produce)
- Why emu, ostrich and guinea fowl eggs are worth shelling out for (The Sunday Times, Jun 2018)
- Enormous emu eggs go on sale at Waitrose (Daily Mail, Feb 2016)
- 10 Kinds of Edible Eggs That Don’t Come From Chickens (MSN Mar 2018)
Our Egg Recipes
If you like eggs, then check out our egg recipes: