Dating back to the Native Americans and the early European settlers, crawfish have been an inherent part of Louisiana culture. Abundant in the swamps and marshes across south Louisiana, crawfish were a favorite food of early residents. Centuries later, crawfish season in Louisiana is still exciting, with crawfish boils and patio parties a time-honored tradition.
In the 1940s a commercial fishery for wild crawfish developed in the Atchafalaya Basin. The potential for farming crawfish first became evident when crawfish crops developed as incidental catch in impoundments created for other uses. In the 1960s researchers at La. State University began to cultivate crawfish in man-made ponds by using controlled water levels.
Louisiana produces more than 90 percent of the domestic crop. More than 1,600 farmers produce crawfish in 111,000 acres of ponds. More than 800 commercial fisherman harvest crawfish from natural wetlands, primarily the Atchafalaya Basin. The combined annual yield ranges from 75 million to 105 million pounds. Whatever their source, the Atchafalaya Basin or a farmer's pond, Louisiana crawfish are a favorite of seafood lovers. Louisiana's crawfish have been introduced throughout the United States and overseas. Louisiana exports some 4 to 5 million pounds to Sweden each year. Wherever introduced, crawfish have been accepted.
How It's Done
Many farmers grow crawfish in rotation with rice. Natural vegetation cannot provide the amount of food necessary for intense crawfish production, so farmers need a food source and rice stubble is a great provider.
When our rice crop is about 1 1/2 months from harvesting, in late May, we stock the field. We buy young crawfish, enough to put 30 pounds per acre on previously fished field or 50 pounds per acre on a new lake.
Surface water from bayous and streams can be used, but water pumped from a deep well is more dependable. Crawfish ponds are usually flooded in late September or early October. Harvesting crawfish from ponds is very labor intensive and costly. The most efficient trap design for ponds is the pyramid trap which catches 20 to 25 percent more crawfish than other designs. Most commercial ponds harvest by walking a pond or using specialized aluminum boats. A crawfish "combine" is equipped with a hydraulic wheel powered by a small gasoline engine that pulls or pushes the boat through the pond.
Live crawfish and fresh tailmeat are usually available from December until July. Crawfish are most plentiful in March, April, and May.Although fresh crawfish and crawfish tailmeat are seasonal, frozen crawfish tailmeat are available all year. Crawfish tailmeat may be purchased fresh or frozen in 12 or 16 oz. vacumed sealed bags. When properly prepared, packaged and frozen, crawfish tailmeat should maintain high quality for about nine months. The price of crawfish varies greatly through the year. The best price is paid early in the season. The drop in the price occurs as the season progresses and volume increases.
Live crawfish are usually purchased in mesh sacks which hold 35 to 40 pounds. Keep them alive and cool from the time they are purchased or caught until they are prepared. Keep them moist, avoid excessive drafts or direct sunlight and protect them from being crushed. Before boiling, wash crawfish several time in cool water.
Crawfish are an excellent source of protein. Fat content of washed tailmeat is low, only about 1 percent. Crawfish muscle fibers are shorter than the muscle fibers in red meats and are, consequently, more easily digested. Crawfish meat is versatile. Its delicate, unique taste comes through, whether the meat is eaten alone or cooked in traditional dishes such as crawfish stew, bisque or etouffee.
Serving size on each 3.5 ounces of raw edible portions.
Lassezes Le Bon Temp Roule'
(Let The Good Times Roll)
Ca c'est bon
Here in Cajun Country there is nothing better than a six pack with boiled crawfish, and lots of friends and family. This is way of life here and happens as often as a bar-b-q. When you eat boiled crawfish you must suck the heads and get all the fat and seasonings out, then you will have truly experienced what the big deal about eating boiled crawfish is all about.
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