Back in the 70s, a number of crayfish farms popped up in England mainly supplying the lucrative Scandinavian market. These farms were stocked with signal crayfish, the larger and faster growing cousin of our native, white clawed crayfish. What they didn’t know at the time, is that these American crayfish carried a deadly plague, which led to a massive decline in our native crayfish population. There are a few untouched rivers in remote parts of England and Wales, but like the grey squirrel, these alien invaders are now much more common than our endemic white claw.
It’s a sad tale and one that is common across the world- from lion fish in the Caribbean to cane toads in Australia. However, there is an upside to this. We can eat signal crayfish with impunity. It’s one of the few wild animals where the more we eat, the better off the British environment is. But unlike grey squirrel, they‘re also really tasty. Much nicer than the drab, dry [Chinese] crayfish tails you get in prepacked sandwiches.
We don’t have a history of eating crayfish in the UK, mainly because our native white claws are very small. In Scandinavia they’re very popular though. In Sweden, it’s traditional to throw a crayfish party on midsummer’s day called a kräftskiva.
They’re also feted in the Deep South of US- the bayous are chock full of them and they play a large part in Cajun and Creole dishes like gumbo and Étouffée. Although they call them crawfish, craw daddies or mudbugs.
This week's crayfish have been caught in traps in rivers and ponds in Berkshire by the one & only Crayfish Bob. Bob has pioneered many large scale trapping efforts in our local waterways and has been at it for years. He's managed to remove several tonnes of the invasive critters - excellent news for aquatic ecosystems, delicious news for us!
So as you're tucking into this weeks catch, remember, you’re doing your part to halt the spread of plague and the extinction of an endemic species. Not bad eh?
Our crayfish will come pre-cooked for all our members. Your task is to get the meat out of the tail. Check out the video below to find out how.
And for a twist on a brilliant bisque recipe, Bob's top recipe pick below.