Gardens of the Cross Timbers: Are the eggs ready?

Becky Emerson Carlberg
Contributing writer
Happy spring daffodils

The egg is the symbol of life. The Monarch butterfly and you each came from an egg. Hardest eggs in the world are Ostrich eggs. They are also the oldest decorated eggshells at 60,000 years of age. Found in Diepkloof Rock Shelter in South Africa, the eggs were engraved with hatched patterns. Gold and silver eggs were found in Egyptian graves 5,000 years old. Persian eggs 2,500 years ago were painted to herald the start of a new year at the spring equinox.

The egg is associated with various faiths. Ancient pagans viewed the egg as a fertility symbol while the Egyptian, Chinese and Hindu egg had a cosmic connection. On the Passover Seder plate is a white egg that represents the circle of life—birth, reproduction and death. Legends exist that Mary Magdalene or Mary, mother of Jesus, carried eggs to mourners as was the custom, but the eggs turned red. In Mesopotamia, early Christians dyed eggs red to represent the blood of Christ. Green and yellow colors were later added. From there, colored eggs spread to Russia then throughout Europe.

What about the egg-laying bunny? Endless stories, but one appears often in folklore. Ostara, the ancient German goddess of spring, transformed a poor bird with frozen wings into a rabbit, but it could still lay eggs. Osterhase, the Easter bunny, hopped along with Pennsylvania Dutch immigrants who came to America in the 1700s. The children made nests to be filled with Osterhase’s colored eggs.

Egg prices peak at this time. One hundred and eighty million eggs are sold each Easter. Egg production is now back to normal after “Winter Storm Uri” finally melted away. Yes, our blasted snowy frigid storm on Feb. 13-17, 2021 was named Uri (#21). Since the 2012-2013 winter season, The Weather Channel each year names 26 future winter storms which meet the National Weather Service’s criteria for blizzards, ice and winter storms. March 15 winter storm Xylia (#24) slammed Wyoming and Colorado. The last two names of this year’s 26 storms, Yardley and Zayne, have yet to be used.

In the commercial egg world, 320 million hens each lay an egg a day. Craig Coufal, agrilife extension poultry specialist at Bryan-College Station, Texas, recommends buying smaller eggs to color. “Smaller eggs come from younger chickens,” he said. “The natural cuticle of an egg absorbs the dye, and younger chickens put a better cuticle on the outside of their eggs.”

Easter Eggs in basket

Commercial dye mixes or natural roots, leaves and veggies turn eggs into light pastels or brilliant colors of the rainbow. That’s the idea. Usually, my fingers turn beautiful colors and the eggs so-so. Waxes applied during the dying procedure can shoot into the stratosphere a plain egg clad with intricate designs. Have you seen the contraption that rolls a hard-boiled egg? Ink pens, crayons or other markers are applied to the egg while it is being spun round and round, leaving lines or blocks of color.

Accessorize an empty egg shell. Stick small squares of tape on each end of an uncooked egg. Poke a thumbtack in one end and gently twist while applying slight pressure until it penetrates the egg shell. Move the thumbtack around to widen the hole. Take a toothpick and stir to break the yolk inside of the egg. Create a larger hole at the other end, then blow through the smaller hole until the egg shell is empty. Wash the inside with warm water and let dry.

Hang the egg using a wire or string with a button on the bottom end. Decorate with paints or glue on beads, trinkets or jewels. Use your imagination to create your own Faberge egg. Go ahead, add some diamonds, gold and a few semi-precious stones. The eggs can be used for many Easters to come.

Make a paper egg, either 3-D or 2-D image to color and place on walls, bulletin boards and other places.

Try your hand at shaping a sugar egg. Whip an egg white. Add granulated and powdered sugar to make a damp “sand” that can be squeezed into a lump. Press into egg molds or small bowls, level sugar mix with knife and invert onto pieces of cardboard. Let air dry about an hour. Scrap out the insides of both halves, leaving a sugar shell about ½ inch thick. Whittle out an oval hole in one half. This is the peep hole to view the inside the egg.

Sunset before Passover

Build a miniature scene within the half without the peep hole. Decorate with green tinted coconut, tiny edible sugar chicks, jelly beans, chocolates….let your imagination go wild. Glue both halves together with royal icing. Let sit 30 minutes before piping the icing around the peep hole. The eggs are meant to be admired and saved, but our sugar eggs never made it to Easter Monday before being eaten. Nothing says Happy Easter better than a sugar high.

Cheat and buy chocolate eggs. Milk or dark chocolate eggs are either solid or filled with chocolate fondant, peanut butter, butter cream, nougat, or flavored marshmallow. Some chocolate eggs have hidden inside smaller chocolate eggs or candy surprises such as gummies or dinosaurs.

My English neighbor Beryl collected duck eggs from around the village pond. With these she made her Simnel cake, a marzipan covered fruitcake unique to the UK and Ireland associated with Lent and Easter. I fearlessly ate one slice at Easter, but our friend June politely avoided the cake.

Who can-not be swept away by the priceless Faberge eggs. The House of Faberge, a jewelry studio founded in 1842, was located in St. Petersburg, Russia. Sixty-nine jewel encrusted eggs were created between 1885 to 1917. Fifty-seven are still in existence.

“The Egg,” is a short story written by Andy Weir in 2009. The little tale is told from a different perspective with an interesting twist, but then Andy’s first novel was “The Martian.”

If you’re not into eggs, do what they have done in Norway since 1923. Watch murder mysteries at Easter!

Becky Emerson Carlberg

Becky Emerson Carlberg, graduate of Oklahoma State (Plant Pathology) is a teacher, artist, writer as well as certified Oklahoma Master Gardener and Master Naturalist. Contact her at Becscience@att.net.