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The History of Caviar

The sturgeon fish's roe is the only fish egg classified as caviar according to the FDA. This fish has been around for 250 million years – yes, that means that they were around when dinosaurs roamed the earth! These types of fish are bottom dwellers. They are saltwater fish, but go to freshwater to spawn. There are 24 major species that mainly live in the Caspian Sea.

It has been said that as far back as 2400 B.C., the Egyptians and Phoenicians had learned to salt and pickle the fish eggs to make them last through war, famine or trips at sea. Up in Greece, Aristotle wrote about the Greeks having lavish banquets that would end up with trumpet fanfare announcing the arrival of huge platters of fish eggs garnished with flowers.



It has been said that the Turks first coined the word “khavyar”, others argue that the word originates from the Persian word “chav-jar” which translates loosely to “cake of power” or “piece of power”. Persians would eat it medicinally, to give them energy and stamina.

In Europe, King Edward II proclaimed the sturgeon to be a royal fish, and made every sturgeon caught in England belong to the imperial treasury. As known in pop culture today, caviar began to be enjoyed in France as early as 1553.

Penns Grove, New Jersey

In the U.S., most of the caviar came from the Delaware River at Penns Grove, New Jersey.

The Hudson River sturgeon was so abundant, that their flesh was referred to as “Albany beef”. This was not considered a high end delicacy like it is today. It is said to be served in bars like beer nuts are now. Even Native American mothers used to feed fish eggs to their offspring.

Only when caviar production become more abundant in the U.S. did it really become a delicacy. There was also a major exportation issue with fraud in the midst of the “caviar boom”. At one point, the caviar shipped out was returned back fraudulently labeled “Russian Caviar”, which at the time was considered more refined. Today, caviar production has been taken over in the Persian Gulf and as of recently, Italy.

Beluga Caviar

Caviar faces shortages today as more and more environmental restrictions are placed on egg collection. While this may reduce quantity in the short-term, over the long run this may help preserve the species, and the eggs the species produces from their continued growth and reproduction.



Caviar Galore



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Last updated October 5, 2011