Friday, June 24th, 2011 | posted by mike
Mention sardines and a lot of people think of the fishy little guys in the tins. Fresh sardines are a whole different ballgame.
I first experienced them years ago while on vacation in Portugal. Lying on the beach in Lagos I noticed an amazing smell coming from behind a huge boulder. Following the plume, I came upon a young couple sitting next to an open fire with a large jug of red wine, a loaf of crusty bread and in a hinged grill basket sizzling over the fire was a mess of sardines! I waved to them and turned to leave them alone when, to my surprise and great fortune, the dude waved me over to join them! That, I have to say was one of the simplest, most amazing and delicious little meals I’ve ever had. I’m sure the people and the atmosphere had a lot to do with it but the sardine’s flavor was incredible. Salty, smokey, juicy, and rich with a fairly full flavor—but at the same time a delicate nuttiness to them.
There are several fish that are marketed as “sardines” in the world. Most are herring relatives like Pilchard, Shad, Brisling, Sprat and other fish in the clupeidae family. We sell mainly Mediterranean from Portugal or Greece, but on occasion we get nice fish from northern California.
Besides the flavor, ritual and romance of eating sardines, these little fish have a lot of other good things going for them. One thing is that they are super good for you. Packed with essential Omega 3 fatty acids, high in protein, calcium and tons of other minerals and vitamins—sardines are great for your heart, your head, your joints and your overall well being. Because these young fish are so small, low on the food chain and live mainly on plankton they are very low in contaminates such as PCBs and metals. Another plus is there are lots of them out there. Sardines reproduce several times a year and there’s a big sustainable bio-mass of them that are less prone to overfishing than most other species.