On July 18 it’s National Caviar Day!
In simple terms, caviar is basically Sturgeon fish eggs. There are several species of Sturgeon fish. As a result, the caviar produced varies in colors depending on the species. Caviar is full of protein and vitamins making the delicacy a healthy meal.
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The United States was the leading distributor of caviar around the year 1900 producing over 600 tons a year. However, due to the over harvesting of Sturgeon fish for the caviar, a ban was put in place to protect the Sturgeon fish from becoming extinct. The population has never recovered sufficiently since the ban, resulting in caviar’s continued status as a luxury item.
Caviar is the roe (or eggs) of the female of a number of species of sturgeon, with beluga being the most popular and well known variety of sturgeon. Long ago caviar was served for free in much the same way peanuts often are today, given away free to foster thirst and encourage people to imbibe even more.
Proper caviar comes in many colors, though it is most often a deep pearlescent black color, and can account for as much as 25% of a sturgeon’s body weight. For those who don’t know, a sturgeon can weigh in at over 300lbs, meaning a single sturgeon can produce up to 75lbs of eggs at a time. Caviar was so popular, and the supplies so abundant, that North America supplied almost all of the 600 tons a year that went to Europe.
Once the ban was put on Sturgeon fishing the price of caviar started climbing. By the 1960’s, it was of such a price that it practically defined what it meant to have an elegant, expensive meal. The price has only gone up since then.
- True caviar comes from the icy waters of the Caspian Sea where the environment is most conducive to producing the finest sturgeon.
- Today with sturgeon facing extinction caviar will remain a delicacy and very expensive.
- A little known fact about caviar is that it shouldn’t touch metal like silver. Otherwise, the eggs will take on a metallic taste. Instead, you’ll need to serve it in a glass bowl, preferably crystal. To remove it from its container, you’ll need to use a wooden, glass or gold spoon.
- To serve caviar properly, it should be kept on ice.
- Sturgeon have survived since the days the dinosaurs roamed the Earth. Commercial fishermen have hunted sturgeon for their roe and meat since at least 1100 BC. Ancient Greek and Roman literature refers to caviar, and the Chinese were trading it as early as the 10th century AD.
- Of the most concern is the beluga sturgeon, which produces beluga caviar, whose populations have declined more than 90 percent in the past two decades. Experts believe beluga sturgeon are so depleted that they may no longer be reproducing in the wild.
- Demand for the delicacy is highest in the European Union, Switzerland, the United States and Japan, which together account for 95 percent of the world’s total caviar imports.
- The United States is the largest market for beluga caviar, importing 60 percent of world supplies. Imported caviar sells for $100 an ounce or more in the United States. From 1989 to 1997, the United States imported an average of 130,000 pounds of caviar per year, worth about $6.6 million.