Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Fish - Organic, Local, & in Season Part 1

One of the hardest parts of eating organic, local, and in season is seafood.  Most of us don't live within an hour of the coast or even half a day's drive which is the most I could consider local. So what do we do about seafood?  Well you have 2 potions, find your freshwater options or substitute sustainable wild populations for local.  I don't have a huge problem with the latter because fish have long been preserved by smoking or salting and shipped away from the seaside.

Local Fresh Water
This will vary in each state and for many states it will vary by what region of the state you are in.  In Georgia the options are Bass, Catfish, Sunfish (Bream, Bluegill, Shellcracker, etc.), Crappie, Crawfish (aka crawdads, mudbugs, crayfish, and many other names), Mussels, trout (rainbow and brook trout are stocked into rivers in north Georgia), whitefish (considered by many as too boney to be a tasty fish it is often abundant when there are limits on other species), Carp (another boney fish which has become invasive and is probably already reeking havoc in Lake Michigan).  There are other lesser known species including fresh water shrimp, but I have not heard of anyone harvesting them here.  Most of these species are not commercially harvested so you will need to go fishing to get them or rely on a friend who is good at it and wiling to share, it is easy to catch more than you can easily eat with the high catch limits in the south.  Some will ask about those commercially available fish like catfish, tilapia, crawfish, and freshwater shrimp. The catfish and tilapia (not native and when it escapes confinement can out compete some of our native species) are raised in the CAFO equivalent for fish.  They are fed a corn and soy based diet that they were never intended to eat. The crawfish and shrimp are also grown in farm ponds, but they might have a better chance of being raised without genetically modified (so common in commodity corn and soybeans that you can not be sure that it is not GMO unless you buy directly from the farm) feed.  I have heard some freshwater shrimp aquaculture operators are able to grow them organically, but I have never seen or eaten one of these.  Most of the freshwater shrimp that I have eaten from commercial ponds taste like cardboard with a fishy aftertaste. Catfish comes the closest to tasting good from a farm pond if you have to buy commercial, I have never eaten wild tilapia since it is not native. If you want to eat an animal that lived as it was intended to then it is better to eat wild.  In Georgia there are a few mussel species that are threatened or endangered, mostly because Atlanta wants to use all to their water to water their yards and golf courses leading to inadequate flows of water down river from Atlanta, so you will need to learn to identify those species if you intend to harvest from the wild. Most of the other species are abundant and only lightly pursued, bass are the exception on being lightly pursued but they are also heavily stocked too. I will try to show methods of preserving your catch later this year as I actually catch them.

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