Foods Indigenous to the Western Hemisphere


Astacidae, Parastacidae

By Jeremy Trombley

Crayfish, also known regionally as mudbugs, crawdads, crawldads, or crawfish, is a freshwater crustacean which resembles it's better known relative, the lobster. Many of the above names derive from the french word écrevisse. They are native to various parts of the world, but their distribution is not uniform. Many species are found in both North America and Australia, while only a few are found in Europe, and Asia and none are native to mainland Africa, though Madagascar has one native species. Many species are too small to use as food or are otherwise inedible, while others grow very large and are highly prized delicacies (the Tasmanian crayfish can grow to be 60 cm long (from head to tail), and can weigh up to 10 lbs). Crayfish are an important aspect of many world cuisines, particularly Australia and the Southern U.S, but also China, Europe, Africa and New Zealand. They can be used in a variety of ways including boiled, fried, used in salads or in soups and other dishes such as the popular Cajun dish Gumbo.

Catching Crayfish

There are many ways to catch crayfish, and each species requires a unique method. In the Northwestern US, they are best caught with a net in the bottom of freshwater lakes. In the Southern U.S. they are found living in deep burrows among crops, and are known to eat the plants that farmers grow. These are easily caught in the evening by simply picking them up by the tail – being careful to avoid the large pinchers. In other parts of North America they are found in freshwater streams and ponds. Here, they can be caught using a string with bait or with a funnel trap with bait.

Preparing Crayfish

Crayfish can be used in a number of ways. However, the best way to prepare them is by boiling. This is also the most humane way to kill them as it does the job instantly. They are boiled in salted water for a few minutes depending on the intended use. Since the tails are the only part with substantial meat, the bodies can be removed and discarded – in some cases the claws may be used as well, but they are generally too small to bother with. The tails are then shelled and the mid-gut removed. They can then be rolled in flour, crumbs, or tempura batter, and fried. Boiled crayfish may be added to salads or made into “crayfish cocktails” or they can be added to soups and gumbos.


Mudbug Madness - Do You Suck Heads?

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