It’s shrimp season, my friends. There is no better indication of how lucky we are in South Carolina than when shrimp season opens and we are treated to the freshest, sweetest seafood to be found.
I have been messaging Megan Westmeyer of the Sustainable Seafood Initiative in Charleston, who has been kind enough to pass along some interesting information about our local shrimp.
First of all, did you know that in South Carolina, there are three shrimp fishing seasons?
Roe shrimp, white shrimp that have recently completed the spawning process, are fished in the early spring, mainly May and June.
Brown shrimp, the offspring of the previous spring spawn, are harvested from June through August; and white shrimp, the offspring of the spring white shrimp spawn, are fished August through December.
So you see, by luck of our location and climate, we have fresh, local shrimp available to us for eight months of the year.
Why should you care?
Because local shrimp are a sustainable resource. As a matter of fact, according to the Department of Natural Resources, “shrimp harvested off the South Atlantic coast of the U.S. is one of the most sustainable sources of wild-caught shrimp” in the world.
What does this mean?
A sustainable resource is an ecological resource (plant, animal, etc.) that is managed and maintained in such a way in order to ensure availability for present and future generations. Or, as Megan would say, our local shrimp are “fish for the future.”
For instance: Natural Resource departments from North Carolina to Florida as well as the federal government monitor the environment, from water temperature to possible damage created by the use of certain nets used by trawlers, to maintain a healthy environment for the shrimp while allowing fishermen to earn a living. Shrimp caught along the South Carolina coast come from areas in the ocean that are muddy and sandy zones rather than hard bottom or coral areas. The softer ocean bottom here is more resilient than living coral to shrimp nets, but even then, trawlers in these waters must use equipment that allows sea turtles and larger fish to escape the shrimp nets during harvest.
So, it’s important to know your source.
When you buy or consume locally harvested shrimp, not only are you enjoying those shrimp on your plate right now, you’re helping the effort to keep the local fishermen alive as well. South Carolina wild-caught shrimp, while being ecologically sustainable, is not necessarily economically sustainable. Local shrimpers face not only the competition from farm-raised shrimp, usually imported from outside the U.S., that drives market prices down but the rising costs of doing business.
So enjoy those shrimp, but ask the origin of the product that you’re buying. It’s peak shrimp season here in the South. Let’s make the most of it.
Shrimp Pesto Pizza
1 cup fresh basil
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
4-6 cloves of garlic, peeled
1/4 cup pecans (or pine nuts)
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
one pre-made 12-round pizza crust (I used Your Momma’s Favorite extra-thin pizza crust from Publix)
1 lb shrimp, uncooked, shelled and deveined
Preheat the oven according to package directions (in my case, 450 degrees).
Put the basil, peppercorns, garlic, pecans and cheese in a food processor. Blend and slowly add olive oil until you get a spreadable pesto.
Place the dough on a cookie sheet and brush lightly with olive oil. Spread pesto on dough. Arrange shrimp on top of the pesto and sprinkle on another handful of Parmesan cheese.
Lower the oven temperature to 425 and bake for 12-15 minutes or until the shrimp are pink and done.
Remove pizza and cut into slices and serve.
Yucatan Lemon Shrimp Soup
4 one-cup servings
4 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
1 medium onion, cut into quarters
2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and quartered
8 cloves garlic, crushed and peeled
3 Tablespoons finely grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 4-inch cinnamon stick
4 whole cloves
1 pound raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
1 Tablespoon orange juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon hot sauce, or to taste (optional)
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
Bring broth, onion, jalapenos, garlic, zest, cumin seeds, cinnamon stick and cloves to a simmer in a large saucepan or Dutch oven. Cover, reduce heat, and continue to simmer for 20 minutes. Strain the broth (discard solids).
Return the broth to the pan and bring to a low simmer. Add shrimp, lemon juice, salt and hot sauce (if using). Cook until the shrimp are pink and firm, about 3 minutes. Stir in cilantro and serve.
Notes: Traditionally made with limes, this recipe substitutes lemon and orange for the tangy lime flavor.
Peyton’s Crab and Shrimp Salad
1 pound of blue crab meat
1 pound of cooked shrimp, shelled and deveined
1 cup of real mayo
2 tablespoons of sour cream
1 teaspoon of honey
1 tablespoon of herbs de province
1 tablespoon of paprika
1 teaspoon of crushed red pepper
1 teaspoon of chili pepper
1 teaspoon of coriander
1 teaspoon of basil
1 tablespoon of garlic
1 large shallot
Drain the crab of any excess water and pick out any bits of shell. Chop shrimp into small pieces. Mix all the ingredients in a large bowl and refrigerate at least two hours before serving.
Courtesy of Tom Peyton