I've spent half a century writing for radio and print (mostly print). I hope to still be tapping the keys as I take my last breath.
Surviving in the wilderness may come down to a piece of knowledge you picked up along the way and quickly forgot until a crisis suddenly brings it to mind. Sort of like which bears can’t climb trees—black or brown? It’s black bears. Got it? Black bears. Also, polar bears can’t climb trees, but as there are no trees in places where bears of the polar persuasion live, that’s of little consequence. But, trust me on the black bears—I think.
However, to the untutored eye in the midst of an adrenalin rush, black bears and brown bears look a lot alike.
First You Need an Ostrich Egg
Let's move on from avoiding bears to cooking ostrich eggs, which can also involve the wisdom of the old bush hands.
Obviously, before you can cook an ostrich egg, you have to get your hands on one, and that’s not always easy. I would suggest not looking in Michigan’s Northern Peninsula or Scotland’s Cairngorm Mountains. The tourist departments for neither of these regions mention ostriches. Not even in the fine print.
So, what to do? Right. Amazon. Well, what do you know? I’ve finally stumped the big A.
They’ve got Ostrich Egg Shells ($73.42 with free shipping), Styrofoam Ostrich Eggs ($13.29 each), and Premium Decorated Ostrich Egg with Wooden Display Stand - Decorative Painted Large Ornamental Eggshell - Various Designs for Display, Conversation Piece ($50.00) batteries not required ... but, no fresh ostrich eggs.
However, the Exotic Meat Markets steps up to fill the gap. They will send you one (1) California-raised ostrich egg for $199.99. But shop about a bit, and you will find that Fossil Farms in New Jersey offers the product at $75.00 each. But, they are a seasonal item not readily available in the winter.
However, you may have an ostrich farm nearby. There are a few hundred in the United States and the United Kingdom, and they are dotted all over Canada, Australia, and elsewhere. The farmers will be happy to sell you an egg. Very happy, it seems, because there are some articles online that describe ostrich farming as “precarious.”
Ostrich Egg Facts
- Being the world’s biggest bird, albeit flightless, it comes as no surprise they lay the world’s biggest bird eggs.
- The eggs weigh up to three pounds and are six inches in diameter.
- One ostrich egg is the equivalent of about 24 chicken eggs.
- Ostriches lay their eggs in communal nests that hold as many as 60 at a time; both males and females do incubation duty.
- From the Safari Ostrich Farm, Oudtshoorn, South Africa, we learn that “An ostrich egg contains approximately 2,000 calories, 47 percent protein and 45 percent fat.” But you’re not going to eat it in one go are you? Are you?
- “Ostrich eggs contain less vitamin E and vitamin A than that of a chicken egg. [However], ostrich eggs ... are richer in magnesium and iron than chicken eggs.”
- To break the shell there’ll be no cracking it on the lip of a pan; you’re going to need a chisel and hammer. So, those little critters inside must have beaks like pneumatic drills.
And, that brings us to the whole point of this biological and culinary excursion.
Methods for Cooking an Ostrich Egg
You’re going to need to set aside an hour for soft, 90 minutes for hard, and have a large pot. Once you’ve chain-sawed the lid off, you and your family and friends can sit around the table and dip soldiers into the yoke. (For non-Brits, "soldiers" are slices of toast about an inch wide.)
Most of the authorities in the culinary art of ostrich-egg cooking recommend against frying. It’s an infrastructure issue; you’re going to need giant utensils. If you’ve got a big enough skillet it will take about 25 minutes for a sunny-side-up monster.
This seems to be the preferred method. Chef Lynn Crawford advises “If you ever want to challenge yourself to cook an ostrich egg, scrambling is the simplest preparation. You can coax the liquid interior from a small hole without worrying about keeping the yolk intact. A small hole also preserves more of the shell for later use as a serving dish.”
And, of course, it tastes like chicken.
Myth or Reality?
Many years ago, when I lived in Africa, I picked up a yarn that intrigued me. It was purveyed by a gin-soaked old codger in a pub and speaks to the need for bushcraft knowledge that started out this article.
The man had “expert at surviving in the bush” written all over him; he was probably an encyclopedia of knowledge about how to avoid getting bitten, poisoned, trampled, stung or eaten by inhabitants of the African plains.
“Suppose,” he said, “that you are alone in the Serengeti and you are hungry. Perhaps, you come across an ostrich egg. Before you pick it up, check to make sure there are no parents lurking about. If an ostrich sees you abducting its next of kin it’s likely to get grumpy. You don’t want that to happen because an ostrich can deliver a kick that can prove fatal.”
The old fellow appeared to re-arrange something in his left nostril, ordered another three fingers of gin, and continued.
“Next, you’re going to need an elephant. Not just any elephant, but one that’s just taken a dump. And, I mean just; fresh elephant dung is very hot.” He looked at me quizzically. “Can you see where this is going?” I said I thought I could.
“Right,” he said. “You stuff the ostrich egg into the pile of steaming poop. Find a baobab tree to sit under and wait for 90 minutes or so, making sure all the while that nothing is scoping you out as a possible lunch item.”
After the hour and a half have passed you’ve got breakfast, lunch, and supper all wrapped up in one neat package. All you have to do is open it.
Just as Amazon has proved a disappointment as a provider of ostrich eggs, so the internet has failed to confirm this story. I leave it to the reader to decide on its plausibility.
- No. Ostriches do not bury their heads in the sand. However, if they feel threatened, they do lie down. So, with a head and neck that have a similar colour to sand, it might look as though they stick their heads underground.
- By the way, elephant dung when burnt is an excellent mosquito repellent.
- “Ostrich Eggs for Food.” Exotic Meat Market, undated.
- Fossil Farms.
- “Ostrich Facts: The World’s Largest Bird.” Alina Bradford, Live Science, September 17, 2014.
- Safari Ostrich Farm.
- “How to Cook an Ostrich Egg (and 8 Reasons Why You Should).” Penny Alexander, Wayfair.co.uk, undated.
- “Lynn Crawford on How to Cook an Ostrich Egg.” Devon Scoble, Food Network, February 1, 2016.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2018 Rupert Taylor