Common Carp

March 17, 2012

Common carp (Cyprinus carpio)

Native range: Asia

Invasive range: Cosmopolitan, including throughout the US and on every continent except Antarctica.

Habitat: In rivers and lakes, carp prefer shallow, sluggish, warm, and well-vegetated waters. They also thrive in bayous, reservoirs, farm ponds, and sewage lagoons. (You might want to skip the lagoons, if looking for a filet or lucky scale.)

Description: Heavy-bodied minnow, varying in color from gray to bronze. Two fleshy barbels project downward on each side of the jaw. The dorsal fin is armed with a serrated spiny ray, resembling the plume on a Roman soldier’s helmet. The all-tackle world record was landed in France in 1987, weighing in at 75 pounds 11 ounces. See ARKive for images.

For a bottom-feeder, what is the good life? The common carp isn’t very demanding: any body of water that’s sluggish and murky will do. One catching sewage or farm runoff is especially nice. Clear, running water: no thanks. As far as food goes, almost anything is fine: plant waste, water weeds, plankton, freshwater shrimp, snails, or fish eggs. Carp are messy eaters, stirring up mud, uprooting plants––and there, in a ripple effect, from zooplankton to insects to fish to birds, goes biodiversity in a body of water. As the silt takes its time to resettle, it can disturb native fish spawning and make it hard for wading and diving birds to see their prey underwater. It can reduce growth of aquatic plants and increase the biomass of algae.

This invader is native to the Caspian and Aral Seas. By 1870, native North American fish stocks had been so over-harvested by white settlers––and more settlers were pouring in all the time needing to be fed––that the US Fish Commission was directed to address the issue. To replenish American fish stocks, why was the Common carp chosen over native fish? Its ease of reproduction. Its adaptability to a range of habitats. Its being a delicacy in Eastern Europe and Russia. In 1877 carp imported from Germany were propagated and distributed by the Commission with assistance from state fish commissions, the fish often being released into open water from railroad tank cars at bridge crossings.

Active stocking was discontinued in 1897 because by then not only had carp been distributed to almost every state and territory but they were so well established that calls for eradication were already starting to be heard from state fish commissioners. A century has come and gone since them, and the carp are still here, and thriving. Some fisherman have suggested that the “Age of Bronze,” as the current great days of bass fishing have been dubbed, may be followed by the “Age of Carp,” given the strength of their and the Asian carps’ numbers.

Distribution of the common carp in red. Courtesy USGS.

In Poland, Wigilia, the traditional Christmas eve meal is observed as a Black Fast in the Eastern Orthodox rite, meaning that one abstains from eating red meat on this day. Wigilia includes Borscht (beetroot soup) with Uszka (ravioli). Traditionally, carp provides the main dish, whether fried, baked, poached in aspic, etc. A live carp is purchased the day before Christmas eve and kept in water to allow time for the fish to purge itself of the river where it was caught. Often this meant that a fair-size carp was kept in the bathtub, to the delight of the children in the family.

Some Poles keep one or two scales from the Christmas Eve carp in their wallet to bring good fortune in the coming year.

Baked Carp in Sour Cream with Wild Mushrooms, Hungarian Style

Courtesy of the late George Lang, owner, Café des Artistes, New York

Serves 8 to 10

5 lbs cleaned and scaled carp
salt and pepper
4 T unsalted butter, plus more for the parchment paper
1/2 lb wild mushrooms, sliced
1 med onion, chopped fine
1 T chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 c dry white wine
1 c sour cream
1/4 c heavy cream
1 T flour
buttered steamed new potatoes

Preheat oven to 375.

Cut the cleaned carp into serving pieces, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place the pieces in a baking pan in one layer and dot with the butter.

Sprinkle mushrooms, onion, and parsley over carp. Pour wine over fish and cover with buttered parchment paper. Bake for 15 minutes, or more, until cooked through.

Mix sour cream, heavy cream, and flour in small saucepan and bring to simmer. When carp is about half done, pour sour cream mixture over it and complete cooking.

Adjust salt to taste, and serve with buttered steamed new potatoes.

Christmas Carp

Don’t miss Neil B’s effort to re-create the great Jane Grigson’s eighteenth-century Christmas Eve carp recipe.

    { 3 comments… read them below or add one }

    gene mascho March 7, 2015 at 7:32 pm

    We use to pickle them in vinegar let set 6 month’s after pressure canning. Also. You can pressure cook them so bones are soft then make patties like salmon

    Reply

    Judy Murphy April 2, 2014 at 9:50 pm

    There is a wonderful Chinese dish served in many Chinese restaurants called Crispy Fish. It is traditionally made with “yellow fish” that we know as carp. It is very good!

    Reply

    JoeRoman July 16, 2015 at 1:43 pm

    Thanks, Judy. Let us know if you come across a recipe.

    Reply

    Leave a Comment

    Land

    nopales con huevo

    Prickly Pear

    Fall is here, and the “cactus fig” is in season. Time to plate-up another widespread invader.


      EAT ME!
      Screen Shot 2012-11-18 at 8.02.21 AM

      Sow Thistle

      It’s spring and time to weed. Sow thistle is a delicious invader found throughout the continent.


        EAT ME!
        800px-ChenopodiumAlbum001

        Lamb’s Quarters

        Lamb’s quarters was a popular spring tonic in the South—an early season edible green—but its leaves are good throughout the summer.       Chenopodium album Native range: Described by Linnaeus in 1753, this European native has been transferred throughout much of the world. Because its spread was rarely recorded, C. album‘s native and invasive [...]


          EAT ME!
          GarlicMustard1

          Garlic Mustard

            Alliaria petiolata Native range: Europe, Asia, Northwest Africa Invasive range: Much of the Lower 48, Alaska, and Canada. (See map.) Habitat: Moist, shaded soil of floodplains, forests, roadsides, edges of woods, and forest openings. Often dominant in disturbed areas. Description: Biennial herb. First-year plant has a rosette of green leaves close to the ground. [...]


            EAT ME!
            fennel01-l

            Wild Fennel

              Foeniculum vulgare Native range: Mediterranean, from Turkey west to Spain and Morocco Invasive range: Much of North and South America, South Africa, and parts of Oceania and the British Isles. Check out the USDA Plants Database to see if it’s found near you. Habitat: Roadsides, pastures, along the edge of wild habitats. Rocky shores [...]


              EAT ME!

              Sea

              Pterois volitans

              Lionfish

              Some say it started in 1992 in Miami when Hurricane Andrew smashed an aquarium tank. Don’t blame the weather, others say; in the mid-nineties, disappointed yet softhearted hobbyists…


                EAT ME!
                chuka wakame

                Wakame

                  Undaria pinnatifida Native range: Japan Sea Invasive range: Southern California, San Francisco Bay, New Zealand, Australia, Europe, Argentina Habitat: Opportunistic seaweed, can be found on hard substrates including rocky reefs, pylons, buoys, boat hulls, and abalone and bivalve shells. Description: Golden brown seaweed, growing up to nine feet. Forms thick canopy. Reproductive sporophyll in [...]


                  EAT ME!
                  Hemigrapsus_sanguineus_big

                  Asian Shore Crab

                  The first sighting of the Asian shore crab in the United States was at Townsend Inlet, Cape May County, New Jersey, in 1988. Though the source is unknown . . .


                    EAT ME!
                    Periwinkles

                    Periwinkle

                    The common periwinkle, which first appeared in New England in the 1860s, is now found along the coast wherever there’s hard substrate–rocks, riprap, broken concrete, or docks–from Labrador to . . .


                      EAT ME!
                      Kleiner_Taschenkrebs_(Carcinus_maenas)

                      Green Crab

                      Since the green crab was first recorded off southern Massachusetts in 1817, it has been hard to ignore. A few minutes of rock-flipping in Maine can turn up dozens of them, brandishing their claws as they retreat…


                        EAT ME!

                        Fresh

                        IMG_W007-2

                        Blue Plate Special: Watercress

                        Summer is here. Time for wild watercress tea sandwiches!     Nasturtium officianale Native Range: Northern Africa, Europe, temperate Asia, and India Invasive Range: In USA: all lower 48 states, except North Dakota. Found in Alaska, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. Also southern Canada, Sub-Saharan Africa, South America, Australasia, and parts of tropical Asia. [...]


                          EAT ME!
                          rusty_crayfish-large

                          Crayfish

                            There are numerous invasive crayfish. We include details for the red swamp crayfish (Procambarus clarkii) and the rusty crayfish (Orenectes rusticus). The same recipes can be used for both species–and many other invasive crayfish. Red Swamp Crayfish Native range: Known as Louisiana crayfish, crawdad, and mudbug, Procambarus clarkii is native to the south central [...]


                            EAT ME!
                            Distinguishing _ Channa argus

                            Northern Snakehead

                            His sister was ailing, and the man in Maryland remembered that, back home in Hong Kong, there was a fish that was considered a delicacy and a restorative. He would make a fish soup…


                              EAT ME!
                              bullfrog

                              Bullfrog

                              “They live in a wide variety of habitats, colonize new ones readily, and eat everything that fits into their mouths,” says Dr. Peter Moyle of the Center for Watershed Sciences at UC-Davis…


                                EAT ME!
                                nutria-mugshot

                                Nutria

                                Nutria, also known as coypu and river rat, is native to temperate and subtropical South America. It has been introduced to Europe, Asia, and Africa, mainly for fur farming. These voracious. . .


                                  EAT ME!

                                  Field Notes

                                  invasive-species8_800

                                  8 Invasive Species You Should Be Eating

                                  If you can’t beat ’em, eat ‘em. Foragers turn to eating invasive species as a means of control. Lisa Munniksma reports on eating invasive species in hobbyfarms.com.


                                    EAT ME!
                                    Blackberry-640x450

                                    To Stop West Nile, Go Native

                                    When contemplating the harm caused by invasive species, the imagination usually stops at fairly direct effects: an introduced predator decimates hapless prey; invasive weeds choke out native plants. But hacking around in the shrubbery a bit — literally — reveals that native and invasive species also have subtler pros and cons. Certain species of invasive [...]


                                      EAT ME!
                                      Screenshot 2015-07-11 09.03.47

                                      Eat Your Way to a Better Ecosystem

                                      Eat the Invaders on The List. Why eat invasive species? 1. They’re tasty. 2. You learn about the local environment. 3. Invasive populations decline. Our appetites can make a difference.


                                        EAT ME!
                                        761687f5f0168527a08c59a0257a07fbe0175efd

                                        These Invasive Catfish Are Destroying the Chesapeake—and They’re Delicious

                                        “Across the board, biodiversity is being affected,” says Sharon Feuer Gruber of the blue catfish invasion. The Wide Net Project aims to take on this invader in Chesapeake Bay. Read more at Yahoo Food.


                                          EAT ME!
                                          gulfcoastlionfishcoalition_logo

                                          Gulf Coast Lionfish Coalition

                                          “Education, mitigation, utilization.” Join the Gulf Coast Lionfish Coalition to help educate the public and encourage the consumption of lionfish in restaurants and seafood markets. Read more about the coalition here.


                                            EAT ME!

                                            This bounty hunter is my kind of scum: fearless and inventive.

                                            Jabba the Hutt, Star Wars, Return of the Jedi, 1983

                                            Previous post:

                                            Next post: