ALEXANDRIA, La, March 17, 2011 — While some folks salivate at the thought of lobsters, for Louisianans, just the idea of crawfish season makes our mouths water and stomachs growl!
When it comes to crawfish, we only have one rule: Call these little fellas anything you want: mud bugs, crayfish, crawdads, crawfish—just as long as you boil them up hot and spicy and serve them to friends and family!
Crawfish, which are also known as crayfish, mud bugs, or crawdads, are actually freshwater crustaceans that resemble small lobsters. Found throughout Louisiana in bayous, swamps and marshes, crawfish thrive in water that is not polluted and does not freeze completely to the bottom. They also breathe through gills and feed on living and dead animals and plants.
While there is no specific date for crawfish season, crawfish are normally harvested from the middle of November to the middle of August. The “best” time to get crawfish generally runs from the middle of March to the middle of June.
Size depends on water temperature; warmer winters tend to produce bigger crawfish and cold winters mean a smaller size and later harvest. When the weather warms up, they move around more and eat more, which makes them grow faster! Hint: NOBODY wants to try to peel, much less eat, an itty-bitty, anorexic crawfish, although if we have to, folks in Louisiana will certainly make that sacrifice!
A favorite food of early settlers, crawfish are still a mainstay of Louisiana culture, and thousands of families schedule events, festivals, and gatherings around crawfish boils held in backyards, parks, parking lots, and just about anywhere folks gather.
In Louisiana, we utilize every opportunity we find to celebrate life with friends and family, and a crawfish boil is an excellent way to achieve this goal. If you are planning a crawfish boil for friends and/or family, a good rule of thumb is a minimum of three to five pounds of crawfish per person, depending on how popular they are with your guests. Some folks actually eat as much as seven pounds to ten pounds of crawfish in one sitting.
If you are not familiar with eating crawfish, here’s how it’s done:
- Get out your favorite crawfish recipe, and prepare crawfish as required
- Place newspaper on serving table; be sure to use at least five to seven sheets of newspaper and set out empty trays to hold discarded shells. Also be sure to set out several rolls of paper towels to blot dribbles of butter from face and hands
- Just before crawfish are cooked, place dishes of warm, melted butter (NOT margarine—for this you need real butter) on the table
- Scoop up crawfish from boiling water, along with potatoes and corn on cob, if included in recipe, and place on layers of newspapers
- Invite friends to “dig in.” Grab crawfish behind main shell, located just before tail section begins. Break crawfish in half, separating tail from rest of body
- Some folks suck the juice out of the head; if you are brave and want to try a “new” experience, you might want to try this. If not, simply place crawfish carcass in empty tray on table
- Turn crawfish tail section up, break shell covering at side of crawfish, and pull meat from tail. Dip tail meat into warm, melted butter
- Pop crawfish tail meat that is slathered in butter into mouth. Rolling eyes and making joyful sounds as you chew are optional
- Don’t forget to eat those potatoes and corn on the cob pieces if included in the recipe. Repeat process until you are so full you have to roll yourself away from the table.
In Louisiana, crawfish are so popular, they even have their own website! Follow this link to the Louisiana Crawfish Promotion and Research Board’s website, which can provide you with a boatload of information on crawfish history, crawfish recipes and crawfish suppliers.
Crawfish suppliers across Louisiana can supply you, your family and your friends with crawfish in a variety of venues, such as boiled, fresh, and frozen. Some providers also offer additional varieties of Gulf Coast seafood.
After you’ve eaten your weight in boiled crawfish, do NOT throw ways those heads and shells, because they make a great garden additive. Dried crawfish shells can be added to your garden to help enrich your soil.
March is not only Mardi Gras and King Cake season; it’s also the best part of Crawfish Season! Be sure to include boiled crawfish in your family’s seafood repertoire; you definitely won’t regret it!
Read more of Carla’s work at Teaming Up For Success and Out and About Louisiana in the Communities at the Washington Times. Carla is the author of four published suspense novels, and her latest book, Artful Misdirection, is currently available in Kindle format on Amazon.com. A native of Louisiana, she serves as the Director of Web Content for Cenla Advantage Partnership a nonprofit organization funded in part by The Rapides Foundation. You can follow her on Twitter, Facebook, Blogspot and LinkedIn.
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