Egg-centric Asheville

Duck, duck... Thomas Shepherd’s laying duck flock enjoys the stream on his farm in Barnardsville. Photo courtesy of Headwaters of Poverty Farm. Photos courtesy of ASAP

There is a lot to get egg-cited about this month when the focus of the Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project’s Get Local initiative turns to farm-fresh eggs. That’s because area farmers and eateries have got you covered, whether you like yours scrambled, poached, boiled or fried, or from a chicken or a duck.

Mike Brown of Farside Farms in Alexander packs about 350 dozen chicken eggs a day, which he then ships to groceries like Earth Fare, Greenlife Grocery, Fresh Market, the French Broad Food Co-op and (soon) to area Food Lion stores. They also end up on the menus of favorite local eateries, from Tupelo Honey to Posana Café. And they become major players in the inventory at local haunts like the French Broad Chocolate Lounge.

Brown has been in the egg business, “probably 15 or 16 years,” he says. “I can’t even remember how long I’ve been producing; I’ve been farming all my life.” In that time, he’s seen Ashevilleans’ egg habits pick up serious speed. “We’ve grown as the market has grown.”

Thomas Shepherd of Headwaters of Poverty Farm in Barnardsville has also expanded his flock, and he’s done it with a “go big or go home” attitude. After only a year, he’s doubling his brood. And his birds aren’t what you might expect. Shepherd raises ducks — Golden 300 Hybrid Layers, to be precise.

“Duck eggs are typically larger, the egg shells are thicker, and the eggs have larger yolks and a richer, heartier taste,” Shepherd says.

Local interest in these vitamin- and protein-packed powerhouses is growing. “We have one couple in Barnardsville that buys four to six dozen a month from us,” he says. And restaurateurs are scrambling for the local eggs. Chefs from Table in downtown Asheville have purchased duck eggs from Headwaters to feature on their menu and, according to Shepherd, chefs at Bouchon have also shown some interest. “Fried duck eggs have a firmer texture, and when baking with duck eggs you may find that they whip up higher and create loftier cakes,” Shepherd says.

But whether from a duck or chicken, cooking eggs requires “patience, respect, finesse and a good sense of timing,” say Julie and John Stehling from Early Girl Eatery, who source their eggs from Highlander Farm in Fairview.

Check out off-the-beaten path recipes from Early Girl and Marco Garcia of Curras Nuevo Cuisine. Garcia sources local eggs and serves egg-centered dishes like flan. Also find the recipe for Garcia’s favorite meal, Migas, at asapconnections.org. “My grandmother cooked it, and it was and still is my favorite,” he says.

In addition to the restaurants mentioned above, you’ll also find plenty of eggs on the March menu of the West End Bakery, which get eggs from Farside farms. “We plan to make some fantastic March specials,” says co-owner Cathy Cleary. “On the savory side, we'll be making fresh egg salads with spring herbs and our famous egg sandwiches on homemade biscuits and bagels.” For dessert, the bakery will offer banana pudding, lemon custard pie and chocolate-chip meringue cookies, among other things.

For a list of more participating restaurants and details about Get Local, visit asapconnections.org/getlocal. Want to pick up Farside Farm eggs? In addition to the stores mentioned here, you can also purchase them from Brown’s two farm stands: at 83 Weaverville Highway and at 1311 Tunnel Road. To contact Farside, call 683-3255.

Headwaters sells its duck eggs and other farm products — from chicken eggs to pasture-raised meats — at the farm. They can be reached at 273-0549. (And look for local quail eggs at area groceries and tailgate markets this season.)

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