Monday, August 23, 2010

Van Cheeseman's Egg Club

Posted By on Mon, Aug 23, 2010 at 10:23 AM

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It’s been difficult to avoid the news about the national recall of eggs (nearly 550 million!) due to Salmonella. While it seems the tainted eggs haven’t reached Tennessee, I was still happy to spot Van Cheeseman’s “Join the Egg Club” sign Wednesday at the Botanic Garden Farmers Market.

Cheeseman owns and operates Flora at Bluebird Farms in Holly Springs, Mississippi, and in addition to his delectable assortment of fresh vegetables, he raises heritage breed chickens. The breeds have names like Welsummer, Brabanter, Dominique, and Rhode Island Reds, and their eggs are beautiful and delicious.

Another bonus: Cheeseman’s chickens are raised responsibly. “During the summer, I keep their coops open. They can come and go as they please, browsing for insects and seeds all day,” Cheeseman explained in an e-mail. Plus, Cheeseman uses homeopathic medicines instead of antibiotics or hormones.

Concerning the current recall, Cheeseman blames the Salmonella outbreak on unsanitary production methods and on the requirement that big producers bleach their eggs. Bleaching, he says, breaks down the natural protective covering of eggs, making them more susceptible to bacteria.

Regardless of where they are produced, Cheeseman says all eggs should be stored unwashed (they stay fresh longer) but should be washed before cooking. He recommends using hot water (at least 95 degrees) and unscented anti-bacterial soap.

Now back to that egg club. It works like this: You pay $40 up front for a dozen eggs a week for 10 weeks. (That’s $4 a dozen.) Cheeseman brings the eggs to either the Wednesday market or the downtown farmers market on Saturdays. After the markets close in the fall, he’ll be at the Tsunami restaurant parking lot on Saturdays.

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