What Is Caviar? Fun Facts and the History of This Delicacy

What is caviar and how is it made? Only when you know this can you fully appreciate this delicacy. Although some types of caviar are now a more accessible food, there are many types and differences in the prices of this specialty and the best ways to eat it.

Caviar is processed salted roe of a large fish, such as sturgeon. Sturgeon fish, also known as “living fossils”, is a traditional source of this delicacy. Three species of sturgeon – Beluga, Sevruga (stellate sturgeon), and Osetra (Russian sturgeon) produce most of the world’s caviar. 

The caviar of other species, such as salmon, is not considered “real” caviar, and producers are obliged to emphasize the origin of their product. For example, for salmon, the packaging must have the clear label “salmon caviar” instead of just “caviar“.

What Is Caviar and How It’s Made – a Short History of Roe

Many people wonder what is caviar made of even before tasting it. It is a delicacy that will bring you ocean droplets on a plate but also likely cost you a real fortune. Now, let’s find out where it all began and how people realized they could benefit from this amazing food. 

Origins of this delicacy date back to Aristotle, who, in the 4th century B.C., described it as something that belongs at banquets amongst flowers and trumpets. But it was ultimately Russian royalty who made this food a staple of every luxurious meal.

To make this delicacy, roe has to be extracted from sturgeon fish. People used to kill fish during this process, but the threats of extinction of this species have pushed the industry to find more humane ways of extraction.  

Sturgeons lay roe once every several years, so the year when eggs are made is important for good caviar. The extracted eggs pass through a sieve, and the membrane is removed. It is a very sensitive food, so in conditions of poor processing and improper storage, it can become poisonous and filled with bacteria.

What Is the Difference Between Fish Eggs and Roe and What Does It Have to Do With Caviar?

Fish eggs and roe are the same thing. However, not all eggs can become this luxurious treat. Roe is a general term for eggs that people collect from all marine animals. Caviar is a specific kind of roe, the one that comes from the sturgeon family. So if you were wondering – is caviar really fish eggs, the answer is yes. 

There are Numerous Types of This Heavenly Treat You Can Taste and Buy

The first thing you should understand is that this delicacy can be classified by grades and types that differ widely. There are five different kinds of caviar, and the classification is made by the breed of fish the roe originally came from. Also, each type has its own distinctive quality, flavor, and price:

As you can imagine, there are cheaper substitutes. Here are five roe people consider the best substitute:

Additional Fun and Interesting Facts About Caviar

Since this is one of the most luxurious treats in the world and has numerous types, it shouldn’t be surprising there are many interesting and fun facts about it. Here are some of the most curious ones:

  • The most expensive kind is Almas, which comes from a rare kind of Iranian Albino Beluga sturgeons. A pound costs over $15,000 in Russia.
  • Kaluga Queen is the company that produces the largest amounts of this delicacy. 
  • France is the country that eats this treat the most, with around 58 tons of consumption a year.   
  • Russia and Iran have the largest export market in the world.
  • There are many colors this luxurious delicacy comes in – black, white, brown, gold, and gray. The red ones are usually from salmon.
  • Female sturgeons can live up to 150 years and males between 50 and 60 years. Females lay eggs on average every four years and they don’t begin spawning until they are around 20 years old.
  • Aside from being a delicacy and, in many cases, a sign of high status, this luxurious food brings many health benefits – numerous minerals and vitamins, like omega 3 and vitamin B12.

Why Is Caviar So Expensive?

It is no secret that this specialty is pricey. The reason is that you have to wait 15-20 years before female sturgeons lay their first eggs. And after that, laying occurs every four to five years. Of course, other factors affect the price, for example, supply and demand. In the past few decades, the industry has grown exponentially. Also, some countries have more demand than ever, and that’s why the prices are always high. Let’s check the amounts for some of the best kinds in the world:

Russian black Karat belugafrom $80 per ounce
Russian Osetra Karat Amberfrom $65 per ounce
American Paddlefishfrom $26
White belugafrom $200 per ounce

Of course, as the price changes, the flavor will too. For example, paddlefish is a lot cheaper than the Russian beluga precisely because of its flavor. Another factor that affects the prices is the place where you decide to buy this rare delicacy.

What Does Caviar Taste Like?

Does one of the most luxurious delicacies taste like fish? Getting to know the taste and flavor of this luxurious treat is most certainly an adventure.

Both because you’ll spend a little fortune on it and because you’ll get to feel an ocean breeze on your palate. In both cases, it will be one of the best experiences in your life.

So are you ready to try some of the world’s most luxurious dishes?