Quail Eggs are the Tiny Eggs to Savour
PUBLISHED: 18:06 24 September 2010 | UPDATED: 17:54 20 February 2013
Quails eggs have long been a sought-after delicacy. Now a Sussex company is specialising in them. Kate Eastman went to Kirdford to find out more.
Situated in the quiet village of Kirdford, West Sussex, is an unusual family-run business, specialising in producing the finest quality quail produce. Nik Tobutt, the director and farmer, created Garden Quails.
Weve been running Garden Quails for four years, he explains. It was April last year we at last found our ideal property in the country. We now have all the facilities needed to take the business to where we want it. New products can be made and developed in the new kitchen and we can expand and add to the flock, as well as having our own smallholding. We had to almost completely rebuild the business after the quail houses were destroyed in the snow earlier this year.
The Tobutt family tradition of keeping quails started in 2005, when Niks wife Sylvia and son Charlie stumbled upon a box 1ft x 2ft in size, at a local agricultural show. It contained seven quails.
How much space do they need? asked Charlie innocently. The stallholder replied that there was room for half a dozen more in there. Sylvia promptly bought the lot, forgetting to ask what sex they were!
We housed our new family in a two-storey rabbit palace, until the males started to get a little possessive over the females and had to be separated to stop them fighting, says Nik.
Little Jim, the smaller of the males, was left to take care of the four girls and became the icon of our flock. The two larger males were housed individually in open runs and complained bitterly until we reintroduced some female company! We soon had enough eggs to spare to hatch incredibly sweet, bumblebee-like baby quail. We bought an incubator and brooder and by the end of the summer had successfully hatched a flock of 60 healthy, thriving quail. We wanted our quail to be free to fly so long gone are the rabbit palaces, replaced by an open air secure run.
Garden Quails now has more than 300 quail which lay between 15 and 20 dozen eggs a day. They sell on average 100 dozen raw fresh eggs a week, supplemented by cooked products such as smoked, pickled and scotch Garden Quail Eggs.
Nik has endeavored to recreate the quails natural environment and has established a healthy flock of happy garden quails. Our quails are contained in an open air, secure run where they are free to fly around. They have deep straw and small houses with wood shavings where they can lay, or take a dust bath! All quails are ground dwellers and love to roost in undergrowth or deep straw. After turning or replacing their straw its wonderful to see them dive straight in, poking their heads out and start chirruping happily, says Nik. We have worked hard to recreate their natural environment and in these conditions our flock of happy garden quails produces the eggs of the highest quality. Our motto is finest quality with good husbandry at the heart of its operation.
Simon Croft, of Crumbs of Sussex, was their first customer. He believes passionately in local food and his enthusiasm and encouragement were largely responsible for giving Nik the confidence to proceed.
Compared to hens eggs quail eggs are much smaller and have a lovely, distinct, subtle flavour, more flavoursome but not as strong as ducks eggs, says Nik. If we have plenty of time then the best way to eat them is definitely Quail Eggs Benedict home made miniature English Muffins, poached quail egg and homemade hollandaise. As you can imagine, we get round to this once a year if were lucky! Other than that, I love scotch quail eggs. When Im busy theyre an easy lunch.
Whats the future for Garden Quails? To explore new recipes and also meat products from our birds too. Well soon have a mature guinea fowl meat flock for the Christmas market, adds Nik.
Garden Quails attends many local markets, supplies local farm shops and restaurants and exhibits at events such as the Glynde Food Festival. Theyre also starting online orders soon.
Visit the website for more information, www.gardenquails.com