Thursday, January 24, 2013
Don't Hold The Anchovies
You will not find anchovies listed on the Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch and it is very hard to tie down a 'color', whether it be good (green) or bad (red), to the fishery. Maybe its because the fishery has been known to fluctuate from year to year without any warning. Maybe its because the fishery has collapsed in many places only to rebound with astounding productivity. It is even difficult to talk about the anchovy 'fishery' because there are many different areas with differentiating populations, some healthy and some not so much. Wherever they come from, anchovies make for a healthy, tasty meal, and are invaluable as a food source for other animals. Most of the catch goes into making other items such as fish oil, fertilizers, and fish meal. A smaller percentage of the catch is produced for human consumption, which is unfortunate because they really are one of the healthiest 'brain' foods you can eat.
Anchovies are low in mercury and other toxins that exist in the environment due to the fact that they eat very low on the food chain. They are extremely good sources of omega-3's, calcium, iron, niacin, and the very important selenium. Basically, the perfect protein. Most options in the market are going to be fillets packed in vinegar or oil, but occasionally you will find fresh anchovies. If these are available, jump on them. There really is no fish out there that packs as much flavor as fresh anchovies. They are great fried and eaten whole, head and all. You have to trust me on this, its like eating a salty, savory explosion of ocean goodness. If you are not so adventurous, try de-boning them with your fingers, the flesh is very delicate so you will not need a knife, and baking or panfrying them with butter and garlic, finishing with fresh herbs and lemon. The canned and jarred varieties are great on salads and make great additions to sauces (worcestershire sauce is made from anchovies), or can be enjoyed on their own if they are of a high quality. Just add some cheese and bread and you have a great snack or dinner.
Now that you are dying for some anchovies, lets talk about which fisheries you should be buying from. In 2005 the Bay of Biscay fishery collapsed, only to rebound and rethink their efforts in 2010. Five years of patience resulted in a turnaround for the fishery and today the anchovy population is healthy and considered sustainable by the MSC. Argentine anchovies are MSC certified, a good indicator that you are buying a sustainable product. The Peruvian fishery is one of the largest fisheries in the world. Water temperatures can result in down years and overfishing has been an issue in the past, but today the fishery is working towards sustainability and populations are stable. It seems the Peruvians understand what an important resource they have. Moroccan and Croatian anchovies are not MSC certified, but many independent audits such as Friends of the Sea list those fisheries as sustainable. Our own North Atlantic and Pacific stocks are healthy and at sustainable levels according to NOAA and other audits. By-catch is not a major issue for the anchovy fishery due to the fact that trawlers identify large shoals and target their intended species with minimum by-catch.
With educated eating comes healthy eating. There are plenty of sources to choose from, so finding ocean friendly anchovies should not be an issue. They are a super food, so there are no health concerns associated with eating anchovies. So, what's holding you back from partaking in quite possibly the ultimate protein that millions of other fish feed on? Millions of other fish can't be wrong, can they? I am not advocating an all anchovy diet, we need to save some for our fish friends in the sea. What I am advocating is the next time you try a caesar salad, don't be so quick to 'hold' the anchovies. Julius knew what he was doing when he put them on there.
Posted by MJ Gimbar at 8:58 AM