Caviar. . . A Closer Look

A short article appeared in this month's SAVEUR on the subject of caviar, and I have never wanted to jump right into a photo more than this one. The shiny black eggs nestled in their stylish little tin look almost as if they could jump right off the page and straight into my mouth. The article got me thinking more about this often unattainable food, and its notorious questionable practices in harvesting. The beluga, sevruga and osetra sturgeon numbers dangerously declined by overfishing and poaching due to the high price set upon their eggs. For a time, eating traditional caviar was right up there with wearing a mink or leopard fur trench. Fortunately, caviar harvesting became strictly limited, and eventually numbers rebounded. During this time, the demand for caviar remained, forcing the industry to look elsewhere for alternative sources. Nowadays, it is common to find trout and salmon caviar, among many others in specialty stores and by mail order. This is a good thing, because large oceanic creatures such as sturgeon, need ample time and opportunity to reach maturity, while other fish reproduce much more prolifically. However, true caviar connoisseurs do not care for substitutes. This is why aquaculture is being praised for producing a more sustainable version of traditional caviar. According to the article, a little town called Calvisano, located between Venice and Milan, is known for Agroittica Lombarda, one of the most abundant caviar farms in the world. Raising white sturgeon since the 1980's, (and now osetra and beluga) using a continuous supply of fresh groundwater, their caviar is renowned for purity and taste. Although the industry will always struggle to keep harvesting practices balanced, places like Agroittica Lombarda are setting a fine example of how alternative farming methods, when mindfully operated, can sometimes reign supreme. While the price for true caviar still remains high, (an ounce of Calvisius white sturgeon caviar sells for $61, the osetra for $89 an ounce), there are times when indulgence also has its benefits. An excellent source of calcium and phosphorus, caviar also contains protein, iron, calcium, magnesium, and selenium. Vitamins include: B12, B2, B6, B44, C, A and D, as well as a whole host of important amino acids and precious Omega-3 fatty acids. Another perk; all of these benefits are gained from small portions. A little bit of caviar goes a long way nutritionally speaking. I am not one to go overboard on frivolous food items, but all things considered, I may be putting in a special request to Santa Claus this year, with perhaps a mother-of-peal spoon to go alongside.