Legend has it that the ancient Persians believed Caviar to have medicinal properties, and well they might. The food it is thought they called “Khay-Var”, or “cake of power” is full of superfood qualities.
Packed with minerals and nutrients , this food of Tzars and Kings has been lauded since the time of Aristotle in the 4th Century BC - in fact, here in the UK, any wild sturgeon found within the kingdom are the property of the monarch under a royal decree dating back to the 14th Century.
“Caviar, good Caviar, is like fireworks in the mouth. Little bubbles of salty sea-tasting amazingness exploding around the teeth, like champagne with texture. Each bite is a surprise."
But it hasn’t always been a luxury for the elite. Along the Caspian, fisherman farmed Caviar as far back as the 12th Century and it was long thought of as a peasant food - permitted by the Church on days when eating meat was forbidden and with the leftovers fed to the livestock.
Legend has it that Caviar’s popularity began to grow when Ivan the Terrible developed a taste for it (and who would argue with him?) to the extent that Churches along the Volga were forbidden to ring their bells when the Sturgeon surged up the Caspian, for fear they might disturb their spawning.
But still, its fragility meant it didn’t transport well and its appeal remained limited until the Industrial age.
Sadly for the Sturgeon, it didn’t take long to make up for lost time. By the end of the 1800s, it had become the expensive, elite delicacy we know today and was being zealously overfished in all its natural habitats.
In the Delaware River, American Sturgeon catches dropped by 50% over a 7 year period, with similar figures in the Elbe and Danube.
It is thought that the Russian sturgeon were saved from the fate suffered by their American and European cousins by the First and Second World Wars, with a third respite granted by Soviet Russia, who ran the Caviar business as a monopoly with strict controls on production, price and who they would sell to. When manmade river building and damming had a significant affect on breeding grounds, the state opened hatcheries to help restock the populations in the Caspian.
However, the dismantling of the Union brought poaching, smuggling, competition and corruption to this lucrative trade, and the hatcheries, no longer State funded, gravely faltered.
Since 1970, it is estimated that poaching has reduced the sturgeon population by 90%.
Since 1998, international trade in all species of sturgeon has been regulated under CITES.
In 2010, reports from the IUCN said that 85% of Sturgeon were at risk of extinction, with 4 species having possibly already become extinct.
Sustainable practices, as well as extensive restocking programmes, are desperately needed to save the Sturgeon from disappearing from our world completely.
Here at KC Caviar, we are exceptionally proud to be leading the world in ethical Caviar production, using a revolutionary no-harm process which has the potential to help save the sturgeon from extinction.
We are genuinely humbled that we were chosen to help pioneer this prestigious and unique patented process devised by Prof. Dr Angela Koehler of the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research.
“Sixteen variations of the fish, have reached critically low numbers. To give you some context, that’s a status shared with the likes of the south China tiger.”
Hugh Thomas, GreatBritishChefs.com