This time of year the local seafood restaurants are full of folks seeking, and enjoying, local seafood. Particularly now folks are interested where they can get local seafood. In this series we are letting citizens know which local species are in peak season, and are good choices when selecting a product to buy.
In Florida clams are cultured and harvested year round – asking for Florida clams is always a good bet. Crawfish are still in season and even though they are from Louisiana they are within the 200-mile radius – and thus considered local.
The big change this month is the addition of local shrimp. Pink Shrimp have been in peak season all year but pink’s are harvested in other parts of the Gulf. Locally Brown and White Shrimp are harvested from our bay and now that we are in the month of May – the local brown’s and white’s are in peak season.
On the finfish side of things, we still have snapper but this month brings in Mahi-Mahi, or the fish called the dolphin. This fish is only in peak season for May and June – so now is the best time to purchase.
Based on informal surveys I have conducted over the years with a high school marine science program – shrimp have been the #1 favorite of males and females, young and old. As Forest Gump said there are literally a hundred ways to prepare these guys – and they are all good. This is a great seafood product and has been the mainstay of the local economy for many years. However, in recent years’ fuel costs, insurance, poor water quality, regulations, and the importing of cheaper farm raised shrimp have hurt the shrimping industry. 80-90% of the shrimp we currently consume is imported. How do you know if you are getting local? Well – as mentioned above – peak season for brown and white just began. Brown’s (also known as “brownies” or bay shrimp) are a smaller species that have a dark brown coloration on their uropod (fantail) that is lined in red. There is a groove that runs along the rostrum (serrated spine on the head). These are great for frying, boiling, or any of the numerous recipes that call for shrimp. The white shrimp (also known as Gulf shrimp) can grow a bit larger and can be identified by having a bright green coloration lining their uropod and lacking a rostral groove. They too are good for numerous recipes but the larger ones are great for grilling. You can always ask if the shrimp they are serving at your local restaurant is local or not – and you can also ask where they purchase their shrimp.
I have to do a shout out this month on the invasive lionfish. Most in the area are aware of this animal, and many know that they are edible. Purchasing a fillet (which is very good) is not always possible. The most effective method of harvesting – at the moment – is spear fishing. Unfortunately, with the demand in the neighborhood of 500 lbs./week/restaurant to get it on the menu – the divers just cannot meet this at the moment. There is a product that can be served on a daily basis… smoked lionfish dip. Several restaurants in the area are currently serving this and we encourage to try it.
Until next month enjoy local seafood!