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Rhea Egg

Large Egg of a large flightless South American bird like an Ostrich

Here's an unusual egg that was laid by an unusual bird. The bird was a rhea, which is a South American version of the ostrich. It's like an emu, smaller than an ostrich, but nevertheless a formidable bird.

These birds run wild in some parts of the South American continent, but some folks have domesticated them and have colonies of Free Range rheas, producing eggs which are something special.

I've adapted an eggbox from something which once contained half a dozen free range chicken eggs and fitted the rhea egg in to give some idea of scale.

Now bearing in mind the rhea egg is about eight to ten times the weight of a hens egg, this means that the cooking time is going to be different. If you'd like a lightly boiled rhea egg, you may wonder how many minutes to cook it for. I have a scientific theory for calculating the cooking time for a boiled egg of any size. You know a hens egg takes 4 minutes to boil to perfection in a egg-pan of pre-heated boiling water, so how long does an egg take that's n times heavier? First we take the cube root of the weight ratio, to give a linear size factor. Let's call that x. x = cube root (n).

Well, it has x3 times as much material inside to cook, but the surface area through which the heat must pass is x2 , so the cooking time should be x3 divided by x2 , which is x. Or to put it another way, the cooking time is the cube root of the ratio of the weight of the egg and the weight of a hens egg.

As a rhea egg is about 8 hen eggs equivalent, that would mean the time for boiling it would be cube root of 8, which is 2. So, twice as long as 4 minutes, ie 8 minutes. This would be extraordinary, as it would mean the time to boil an eggs would be directly proportional to the linear length of the egg! Theory is all very fine, but I've found it takes slightly longer than that, probably because the shell is proportionally thicker. If I were giving advice on how many minutes to boil a rhea egg, I'd suggest 10 minutes (starting with the water boiling, in a large saucepan).

Rhea egg shells are especially thick because of the unorthodox style of egg-laying.

But let's consider some of the other options. What about a poached egg, or a fried egg, or maybe even scrambled? Now this raises a few other interesting problems. I can eat three or four eggs in a meal. But I can not eat eight eggs in one meal. So, if I fried or boiled the rhea egg, half of it would be left over and then have to be re-cooked and be past its best.

Also, fried, as a method would require smashing the shell, as would poaching, although it's almost worth it to see such a giant poached egg.

In the end I decided the best course of action was SCRAMBLED. The reasons for this are that scrambled egg can keep for a second meal. You know, scrambled egg and then egg sandwiches, or even microwaved reheated scrambled egg, on gluten-free toast? And besides, the eggshell could be preserved by "blowing the egg". This technique was only practicable with scrambling, because the other methods (poaching, frying, boiling) all required the yolk to be intact. Boiling would have been the next best preserving method, provided I could have found a jeweller's disc-cutter saw to cut a neat circular slice around the end of the egg.

So, blowing and scrambling it was.

I got a large basin, like a Pyrex washing machine bowl, and I drilled a tiny hole in one end of the egg, and a slightly larger hole in the other end of the egg. The larger hole is the exit hole, and needs to be about 3-4mm in diameter. The trick is then to blow through the tiny hole and allow the material inside the egg to be forced out into a glass bowl. When all the stuff is extracted, it's possible to cook the stuff, and meanwhile to wash out the shell for preservation.

So, two large meals of scrambled egg! Very nice, although a slightly unusual taste. I felt that the early explorers of South America must have been glad to find birds with eggs to improve their diet, and they would find the taste an "acquired taste".

However, soon after the eating of the scrambled rhea egg on gluten free toast, I was visiting an industrial workshop and something slightly unfortunate happened. I farted. I apologised, which was the polite thing to do. Farting is just one of those things that happens. It can happen to anyone. Unfortunately the fart was not normal, and the smell was distinctly of noxious hydrogen sulphide. So, I must confess, the egg was BAD. The workshop had to be evacuated of folks, so bad was the hydrogen sulphide. I explained to the people involved, and they thought it was quite amusing. But let's get away from oldfashioned notions of shame in this, because farting is natural, and it's best to be honest about it. I realised then that in the original meal the "unusual taste" had been the egg being slightly bad, rather than there being a particular flavour to eggs of the rhea bird. (On a later occasion, with a second rhea egg, this theory was confirmed. Rhea eggs taste naturally of egg, and are similar in taste to chicken eggs).

Meanwhile, I preserved the valuable collectible rhea egg shell. So as to display it in an interesting eccentric way I've adapted an eggbox which once contained a half dozen (six) free range chicken eggs. This gives a impression of the size of the egg.

At a later time I acquired a second rhea egg. This I processed in a similar way and it produced two large meals of scrambled egg and an intact shell. However, this time no unusual taste and no noxious gas. The second egg was not at all bad.

As with chicken eggs, there are fertile and infertile types. Infertile is best for cooking, whereas fertile is for hatching. They are different, and with a particular egg, you may be able to tell which it is by putting a bright light behind it.

This page is yet another unusual story by Zyra, on this interesting website which contains a great many intriguing accounts like this.

Incidentally, if you received a giant egg, how would you cook it?