Author Archives: David Green

Carolina Mud Bugs (Freshwater Crayfish)

North Carolina Fisheries

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Crayfish are eaten worldwide. Like other edible crustaceans, only a small portion of the crayfish is edible.

In most prepared dishes, such as soups, bisques and étouffées, only the tail portion is served. At crayfish boils or other meals where the entire body of the crayfish is presented, other portions may be eaten.

Claws of larger boiled specimens are often pulled apart to access the meat inside. Another favorite is to suck the head of the crayfish, as seasoning and flavor can collect in the fat of the boiled interior.

A common myth is that a crayfish with a straight tail died before it was boiled and is not safe to eat. In reality, crayfish that died before boiling can have curled tails as well as straight, as can those that were alive, and may very well be fine to eat.

Boiled crayfish which died before boiling are safe to eat if they were kept chilled before boiling and were not dead for a long time. A good way to determine safety in crayfish meat is whether it is mushy, usually an indication that it should be avoided.

Over 90% of the domestic crayfish production occurs in southern Louisiana and the Florida panhandle. In 2009, North Carolina had four active crayfish growers with 30 acres in production. Total harvest (tail meat) was 10,200 pounds with a farm gate value of $35,700 or $3.50 per pound.

Contributed by David Green

Composition of Selected Finfish

SEAFOOD IS HEALTH FOOD

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Fish and shellfish pack healthy amounts of protein, polyunsaturated fat and omega-3 fatty acids.

At the same time, they are low in total fat, saturated fat, sodium, calories and cholesterol. To add to their appeal, they are naturally rich in vitamins and minerals such as iron and B-vitamins, too. 

The composition of selected finfish, many of which are found in North Carolina, is given below per 3.5 ounce servings.

Remember to source your fish and shellfish from local vendors, pack well in ice or keep refrigerated, cook to retain moisture and enjoy!

From: Mariner’s Menu: 30 Years of Fresh Seafood Ideas

Contributed by David Green

Herbs – Savory

TIPS FROM THE KITCHEN

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Many herbs and spices are compatible with fish and shellfish, including basil, bay leaves, celery seed, chives, fennel, mustard, parsley, rosemary and savory –  just to name a few. 

Savory is, for one thing, a category applied to foods that are not sweet. It suggests either a spicy or tart flavor. There are a number of foods that have both a sweet and a savory preparation. For example, sweet potatoes, pie crust and soup can all be served sweet or prepared as a savory dish.

Savory is also an herb so bold and peppery in its flavor that since the time of the Saxons it has become synonymous with tasty and flavorful foods, hence savory as a category applied to foods.

Summer savory (Satureja hortensis) is the most delicate of the familiar varieties, both in taste and in character. It is an annual that requires light, rich soil and full sun, conditions that make it ideal for growing indoors. Because the leaves are so tender, they can be added fresh to salads or used as a garnish.

Winter savory (Satureja montana) is a coarser variety. The leaves are bright green, narrow, and tough. They are best used for dishes that require long cooking, such as stews, or added to the water when cooking dried beans so that there is enough heat and moisture to break them down.

This not only releases the flavorful oils, but also softens the leaves so that they are palatable. Winter savory is often used in stuffing, with vegetables, as a seasoning for fowl and in making sausages. In fact, it is used today in the commercial preparation of salami.

Both of these varieties of savory have a peppery bite to them, although the summer savory is milder. This herb may be used as a seasoning for salt-free diets since the strong flavor makes food more appealing.

Contributed by David Green

Educate, Don’t Frighten Consumers

SEAFOOD IS SAFE TO EAT

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Seafood is an important part of a healthy diet because it is a good source of high-quality protein, is generally low in calories and fat, and has Omega-3 fatty acids that have many positive health benefits. The American Heart Association and Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010 recommend eating at least two servings of seafood each week.

However, some consumers hear negative information about one type or species of seafood such as oysters and avoid seafood all together. In addition, food safety messages for certain “at-risk” groups are frequently misunderstood or followed by consumers who are not at risk.

Therefore, remind consumers that eating any raw animal food is risky, but cooking and effective post-cooking handling reduces the risk of foodborne illness.

Prevention

How to reduce the risk of bacterial infection by Vibrio vulnificus is important for everyone. However, some helpful ideas for educating consumers are:

  • Consumers with weakened immunity such as diabetics, dialysis patients and individuals with liver disease, cancer or AIDS are advised to eat only thoroughly cooked seafood and avoid consuming raw seafood, especially oysters.
  • Stress that thorough cooking kills harmful bacteria and viruses in seafood, meat and poultry. Demonstrate the proper cooking of shellfish and/or provide cooked oyster recipes.
  • Obtain free consumer brochures from the Interstate Shellfish Sanitation Conference, or ask your physician or other health care professionals to provide free ISSC Vibrio vulnificus Fact Sheets.

Remember, thorough cooking of oysters will destroy the potentially harmful Vibrio bacteria!

Source: This information was provided by SafeOysters.org

Contributed by David Green

Seafood Dietary Guidelines

SEAFOOD IS HEALTH FOOD

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Mean intake of seafood in the United States is approximately 3 1/2 ounces per week, and increased intake is recommended. Seafood contributes a range of nutrients, notably the omega-3 fatty acids, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).

Moderate evidence shows that consumption of about 8 ounces per week of a variety of seafood, which provides an average consumption of 250 mg per day of EPA and DHA, is associated with reduced cardiac deaths among individuals with and without pre-existing cardiovascular disease.

Moderate, consistent evidence shows that the health benefits from consuming a variety of seafood in the amounts recommended outweigh the health risks associated with methyl mercury, a heavy metal found in seafood in varying levels.

Benefits are maximized with seafood higher in EPA and DHA but lower in methyl mercury. In addition, eating a variety of seafood, as opposed to just a few choices, is likely to reduce the amount of methyl mercury consumed from any one seafood type.

Individuals who regularly consume more than the recommended amounts of seafood should choose a mix of seafood that emphasizes choices relatively low in methyl mercury.

For a list of common seafood varieties consumed in the United States with the EPA+DHA and mercury content in a 4-ounce cooked portion go to Appendix 11 in the 2010 USDA report.

Source: Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010

Contributed by David Green

Ode to a Clam

SEAFOOD TRADITIONS

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All hail, all hail, the worthy clam.
No better food, I sware there am.
You sit there locked up in your shell,
your inner thoughts you never tell.
Your little siphon like a snout,
the goodies flowing in and out.
And there you sit on bottom bay,
and pump away throughout the day.
Your sex may change, the textbooks say,
a boy when born, a girl today.
You look the same and none can tell,
and yet you reproduce so well.
Into the sea you spit your spawn,
and baby clams so soon are born.
They swim about with little hairs,
and may end up most anywheres.
For “bout a week they spin around,
then clams-shaped to the bottom bound.
And here they sit throughout their life,
and never more to seek a wife.
You eat all kinds of algae stuff,
and never seem to get enough.
Your mantle grows and then your shell,
with little rings no age to tell.
You live among the bottom ooze,
and never take of bottled booze.
And still you grow both strong and bigger,
to become a little bottom digger.
Up and down the ooze you go,
until the winter’s snow doth blow.
Then in the mud you hibernate,
without the warmth of love nor mate.
Thus in the spring the clam man comes,
his mind all filled with money sums.
His rake on the bottom he doth scratch,
in hopes he will collect a batch.
Arise, arise, thee worthy clam.
Fear you not, this waterman.
For half your shell upon the table,
will soon feed Mike or Cliff or Mable.
Such was your reason to be born,
Don’t sit there in the ooze and mourn…
  • Written by Hap Sims, 1967.

North Carolina Oysters in Demand

How to select, handle, clean and store seafood

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Oysters harvested in southeastern waters are known as the American oyster (Crassostrea viginica). This oyster is a bivalve mollusk, most often found in tidal waters of bays and estuaries.

Most southeastern oysters are taken by hand rakes or tongs. The most productive season is fall through the winter. Oyster flavor, color and texture will vary by location and season.

Whether shucked or in-the-shell, oysters are highly perishable and should be eaten and or cooked as soon as possible.

Harvest must be from waters “approved” by state shellfish authorities who routinely test the oysters and water relative to bacterial content and other contaminants. In some instances, oysters may be relayed or moved from non-approved waters to approved waters for a specified period of time prior to final harvest.

Processing must be conducted by a certified dealer in compliance with all state and federal food safety regulations. Fresh and frozen oysters are available in various forms, both in-shell and shucked.

The oyster should appear cream to beige in color, packed in somewhat transparent liquor. The preferred flavor is a mild oyster with a slight salty taste. An excessive opaque or cooked appearance may denote temperature abuse.

For more information on local oysters, visit the NC Division of Marine Fisheries.

Contributed by David Green