With Caspian Sea sourced beluga caviar already in danger of being eaten into extinction, will paddlefish caviar serve as an abundant alternatively flavored substitute?
By: Ringo Bones
Let’s assume your conscience is callous enough to allow you to consume an endangered species into extinction, it is more likely that you will be stopped by your sparsely loaded wallet. Since being classified as an endangered species back in 1997, whatever legally allowed quotas of beluga caviar being made available on the market since then, their prices had been steadily rising since the start of the 21st Century. But can a more environmentally-friendly substitute be found that’s just as tasty but doesn’t cost almost an arm and a leg?
The humble - and obscure to most caviar connoisseurs – paddlefish (scientific name Polyodon spathula) had lately become the must have beluga caviar substitute du jour. Often called spoonbills, paddlefish are a cousin to the sturgeons and yields a roe that range in color from pale through dark steel-gray and golden oscetra brown. Paddlefish roe caviar is also widely known for their smooth and silky texture and rich flavor.
As a species paddlefish belong to the family Polyodon and is found in the Mississippi River and in some still pristine rivers in China. Described as “degenerate” in evolutionary terms, paddlefish bags its food with its enormous mouth. A relative of the first major group of ray-finned fishes, it has a cartilaginous skeleton and an almost scale-less body, unlike its heavily-scaled predecessors. Paddlefish fecundity is no more or no less than that in comparison to most species of sturgeon. Its relative abundance is mostly due that it is not yet relatively hunted for its caviar.