CAVIAR FAQ (*fish eggs)
The unfertilized eggs of fish -- oocytes -- the developmental
stage of the eggs just prior to maturation into eggs suitable
for fertilization. It is high in protein, vitamins and minerals,
but it has a high sodium content.
is caviar harvested from sturgeons?
Sturgeon are caught in large nets, then stunned. Once back on
land and in the processing plant, a precise incision is cut
in the belly of the fish and the egg sack is removed whole.
Sturgeon usually are killed to obtain their caviar.
is caviar processed?
Once the egg sack is freed from the cavity of the fish, it is
placed over a large wire grate. The eggs are gently passed back
and forth over this sieve to separate berries
of different sizes.
does caviar cost so much?
Bigger eggs dont necessarily mean better. Beluga, one
of the largest and the rarest of the caviar-producing sturgeons,
yields the largest eggs, but the fewest in total number. It
costs more because its supply is so limited. An ounce of beluga
caviar costs more than $80. Tennessee River caviar costs about
$10 an ounce.
does caviar come in different sizes and colors?
The color and size of the caviar depends on the age of the female
and its diet. Color and quality have no relationship. Beluga
ranges in color from light to dark gray, while osetra varies
from nearly yellow-gray to brown-black. North American sturgeon
and paddlefish produce light gray to black eggs.
does caviar come from?
The majority of the worlds caviar comes from the Caspian
Sea -- Russia, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, Kazakstan and Iran.
However, as sturgeon populations in the Caspian Sea are depleted,
these fish are being sought in other waters -- including in
North America, home to several sturgeon species.
does most of the caviar come from the Caspian Sea?
Caviar hasnt always been an exotic, exclusive and expensive
import delicacy. Until the turn of this century the US produced
90 percent of the worlds caviar. Nicknamed Albany
Beer, caviar was actually given away free with beer in
saloons for the same reason salty peanuts are given away today.
Sturgeon was so abundant that the meat was sold for a penny
a pound. But by 1910, lake sturgeons were nearly extinct and
American production was stopped. In 1925, the Caspian Sea fisheries
began the commercial production we know today.
The greatest demand for caviar is in Europe, the US, Canada
and Japan. Major customers include airlines, international hotels,
cruise ship lines, duty free shops and supermarkets. Most of
the caviar consumed in the US is imported. According to customs
records, the US imported more than 82 metric tons in 1995. This
amounts to a retail value close to $33 million.
Sturgeon are one of the oldest living types of bony fish. Considered
living fossils, they evolved 250 million years ago,
surviving the disappearance of the dinosaur. Sturgeon are generally
long-lived and therefore particularly vulnerable to fishing
pressure because they dont reach sexual maturity until
they are 6 to 25 years of age, depending on the species. Of
the 25 species of sturgeon, nine occur in North America. Beluga
sturgeon from the Caspian Sea are one of the largest freshwater
fish in the world, measuring up to 24 feet in length and weighing
more than 2,800 pounds.
One of only two living species from an old group of ancient
fishes, paddlefish can grow to six feet or more. This filter
feeder normally lives in dark, algae-rich water, but its long
snout contains many sensory cells that allow it to navigate
and detect the presence of food. The snout may also help stabilize
the fish while its mouth is wide open. Its tasty roe has earned
the paddlefish the nickname Chattanooga Beluga.
are sturgeon and paddlefish globally threatened?
The World Conservation Union considers all but two of the worlds
27 sturgeon and paddlefish species globally threatened. Consumer
demand for caviar and the collapse of Russian law enforcement
have caused a boom in illegal poaching. Habitat destruction
has also contributed to the decline of these fish.
World Wildlife Fund suggests these options for action:
Dont buy beluga, sevraga, ossetra or caviar from
the Caspian region, which includes Russia, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan,
Azerbaijan and Iran.
If you cant live without it, try this recipe for
FOR IMITATION CAVIAR
medium eggplant (about 1 lb.)
2 Tbs. olive oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 Tbs. green onion, diced
1/2 tsp. soy sauce
2 Tbs. minced parsley
1 cup fresh tomatoes, chopped
1 Tbs. lemon juice
1 Tbs. fresh basil, chopped (or 1 tsp. dried)
prepare: Cut the eggplant in half lengthwise. Bake, cut
side down, on a greased cookie sheet at 400° for 60
minutes. As the eggplant cools, gently squeeze out the
excess water. Use a spoon to scoop pulp from the skin.
Place the pulp in a bowl and mash with a fork (or place
in processor and process until smooth). Using a garlic
press, crush the garlic into the eggplant. Add all of
the other ingredients and blend well. Cover and chill.
about 3-1/2 cups. Spread on sesame crackers and garnish
with chopped hard-boiled egg and chopped onions.
with some slight embellishment from, The Internet Chef.)