Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Tilapia Taste Test

Last night I finally had a chance to taste Tilapia, the fish I had spoken about in previous postings. This fish is interesting as it is hardy, and therefore ideal for farming production. The majority of the fish in the United States are grown in aquacultural farms in South America, with some being grown commercially in Arizona and other Southern States.

When I had purchased the fish from my local Megamart, it was the final step in making a decision on the fish species I would like to experiement in farming within my small urban farm project. It was also the most important, because if the fish didn't taste good I wasn't going to bother with it.

The fish is a whitefish, very similar in texture to catfish. It was frozen whole, but was already cleaned. Being just under a pound, it provided little more than a taste to my entire family, but it was enough. The skeletal structure was very interesting, as the swim bladder seemed to be encased within a miniature rib cage directly below the spinal column. It was also a very bony fish, more so than trout or salmon.

In preparation, I had decided to try the fish smoked. We have a small smoking grill in the back yard that has worked well for trout and salmon, so it shouldn't have a problem with Tilapia. The only seasoning added to the fish was sprigs of lemon thyme and fresh rosemary. The fish was then butterflied, and pressed within a grilling cage. Then, onto the grill! The grill used hickory chips and mullberry logs for it's flavor. Partly because I prefer hickory, and also because I need to get rid of what is left of my mullberry tree that fell over two years ago in a storm.

We had smoked it for 1 hour, which turned out not to be long enough. Because of the colder weather, the fish had not cooked through completely, though the majority was completely cooked. Cooking was completed within an oven in the house.

The overall impression was good. The fish was tasty, in that it tasted like the smoke and herbs that were used to cook the fish. Tilapia generally doesn't have a taste, as it doesn't have a high fat content. It does, however, have a high protein content, which makes it an ideal source of protein. But, the fish does need to be seasoned, so it isn't eaten for it's flavor. I have heard some say that it has a muddy flavor, but I would say that this particular fish did not have that flavor. My guess is it has to do with the conditions the fish was raised, as opposed to the actual flavor of the fish.

So, as far as farming the fish, I think I still will. There is a potentially high retail value for the fish, which makes it valuable. That being said, I definitely intend to augment the Tilapia with another fish that is more flavorful. I will keep you posted as developments come regarding the fish I select to augment the Tilapia tank with.

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