Fabulous Farm-fresh Eggs

Kaua’i Farms is a family-run business that raises 1,200 free-range chickens and harvests about 50 dozen eggs a day. The chickens are not used for meat and have access to 206 acres in Omao. With five species, each carton contains a variety of blue, white and brown eggs.

Owner Mark Beeksma was raised on Whidbey Island in Washington State, where he had his first chicken as a child. Mark’s wife Diane, a third-generation Kauaian, helps with deliveries, and their five children help harvest, clean and package the eggs.

Free-range chicken eggs have no legal definition in the United States, and free-range egg producers have no common standard on what the term means. This leads to misrepresentation, as some producers can say their chickens are free-range even if the chickens only have limited access to the outdoors.

Chickens at Kaua’i Farms are truly free range and forage for guava, grass, vegetables and insects. For an inside look at Kaua’i Farms, watch its Kaua’i Grown video at kauaigrown.org/kauai-farms.

FARM-FRESH EGGS

There is a big difference between farm-fresh eggs from free-range hens and eggs that come from up to 1 million hens raised in cages at concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs). Free-range eggs from local farms are days old, while CAFO eggs can be up to 2 months old. Fresh eggs are rich in flavor and nutrients. The color, which is influenced by diet, is deep yellow in farm-fresh eggs because the chickens dine on bugs, greens and food scraps.

Breed determines a shell’s color, not what the hen ate. Brown, blue and white eggs all taste the same. No matter how long a hen sits on an egg, it will not turn into a chicken unless a rooster fertilizes it.

Season: Mark’s hens lay eggs beginning in January and continue throughout September. February through August are fruitful months, and March is when his hens lay the most eggs.

What to look for: Look for the words “free-range” on the carton to ensure you’re getting cage-free eggs. Organic eggs are not always free-range, but their diet consists of organic food.

Storage: Even though eggs you find at the grocery store are clean, farm-fresh eggs do not have to be washed. A powdery coating known as bloom protects the egg from harmful bacteria while allowing it to breathe. Once the egg gets wet, that protective coating gets washed off and the porous shell becomes vulnerable to harmful bacteria. An unwashed farm fresh egg will keep for up to two weeks, if stored at room temperature, out of the sun. Washed eggs should be placed in the coldest part of your refrigerator.

Tip: When eggs are sold at a farm or farmers market, it’s best to know their source because the seller’s reputation is your only assurance of quality. Eggs in the grocery store are food-safety certified.

Preparation: In cooking, the two parts of the egg perform different functions. The yolk acts as a fat, and to some degree, a protein, enriching, thickening and emulsifying mixtures; it also adds color and flavor. Egg whites serve as a binder and thickener, and form air bubbles when beaten. The protein coagulates when heated, creating the structure that causes a cake to rise.

Health benefits: According to a Mother Earth News study, eggs from free-range hens contain six times more vitamin D, twice the omega-3 fatty acids, more vitamins A and E and up to one-third less cholesterol than eggs from caged hens.

Kaua’i Farms free-range eggs can be found at: Foodland, Big Save/Times, Papaya’s Natural Foods & Cafe, Living Foods Market, Harvest Market, Sueoka Store, Vim n’ Vigor and Whalers in Poipu. For more information, call 639-8872.

DIANE’S LILIKOI PAVLOVA

Diane’s recipe for pavlova, a baked meringue topped with fruit, is an elegant dessert for special company. Even though there are several steps, this recipe is easy to make.

* 6 Kaua’i Farms egg whites
* 1 1/4 cups sugar
* 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
* 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
* 2 teaspoons cornstarch
* 1 pint heavy cream
* 2 mangos, cubed
* 2 cups cubed pineapple
* 1 orange, segmented
* 1/2 cup lilikoi syrup

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Draw a 9-inch circle on parchment paper and place it, face down, on a baking sheet.

In a large bowl, beat egg whites until stiff but not dry. Gradually add sugar, about 1 tablespoon at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat untilthick and glossy and gently fold in vanilla extract, lemon juice and cornstarch.

Spoon mixture in the center of circle drawn on the parchment paper. Working from the inside, spread mixture toward the outside edge, building edge slightly. Bake for one hour and cool on a wire rack.

In a small bowl, beat heavy cream until stiff peaks form and set aside. Place baked meringue on a serving plate and fill with whipped cream. Top with fruit and drizzle lilikoi syrup. Slice and serve immediately.

Makes four servings.

Marta Lane is a Kaua’i-based food writer. For more information, visit TastingKauai.com.

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