by Stef Jantz, Food Columnist
It’s becoming that time of year again full of boils, corn, potatoes, sausage, spices, and those “mini lobsters” that we love.
Or for some, crayfish. There are over 400 species of crawfish around the world, and we have 250. The most well known to us here are the red swamp crawfish that are found in southern Louisiana swamps, rivers, lakes, wetlands, and ditches.
About 90% of U.S. farmed and wild crawfish are produced in Louisiana where they are trapped and farmed as a rotating crop with rice. These little crustaceans are also farmed in other southern states as well as the Pacific Northwest and around the world.
How long have we known of these tasty bugs? It goes back to the Native Americans and the European Settlers in the 1600’s, and they were abundant in the swamps and marshes across southern Louisiana. Commercial sales of crawfish started in the 1800s and were harvested from natural waters in the southern region.
In 1880, it was recorded as the first commercial crawfish harvest weighing in at 23,400lbs. 20 years later, a census reported that Louisiana’s production raised up to 88,000. Technology started bringing harvesting crawfish to a positive level.
Crawfish farming became big in the 1960’s, cultivating them in man-made ponds, controlling water levels, forage management, and water recalculation.
Today, more than 1,600 farmers produce the bugs in 111,000 acres of ponds and more than 800 commercial fishermen harvest from natural wetlands, mainly from the Atchafalaya Basin.
Now, the best part, boils! In the 1700’s, Acadians, or now known as Cajuns, came down from Canada and settled along the wetlands and bayous. They ate crawfish out of necessity because it was cheap.
By the 1800’s, the Acadians started modifying lobster recipes from their Canadian roots and it caught on by other restaurants, thus the beginning of new recipes and boils.
There are so many ingredients you can throw in there. Most common is corn, potatoes, lemon, and sausage. I’ve also seen Brussel sprouts, mushrooms, garlic, boiled eggs, and onions. That spicy, delicate aroma floats in the air and it brings together so many gatherings of friends, family, and strangers.
Pour those pots on a table of paper with holes in the center and tons of paper towels, chow down, and have a great time. These scenarios happen during spring and summer, and times you look forward to after winter.
Of course, you can do all this with crab and shrimp too! So grab that giant pot and burner you keep stored in the garage, get some water boiling, dump in those large packets of seasonings, and boil away.
Pinch and suck!