Business has been brisk at the Seafood Center’s Willy Street Co-op locations. Thank you to all the Owners who have supported us over the years. This month, after a long absence, we are renewing our voice in the Reader. Keep an eye here for discussion of seafood industry issues, the health benefits of seafood, information about the bounty of seafood options, and delicious ways—simple and otherwise—to prepare them.

Radioactive Seafood
The Fukushima tragedy has caused seafood prices to plummet in the Tokyo market and the news reports of radioactive seafood. Should you be worried? No. Multiple experts and worldwide studies concur: the threat is highly localized—within a few miles of the reactor site—and does not pose a threat to human health and consumers worldwide. In the United States, the EPA states: “the amount of Japanese radiation detected in Alaska is harmless… and hundreds of thousands of times below levels of public health concern.” This is good news for the upcoming wild salmon season.

Pacific and Alaskan Salmon
Beginning in late April or early May, we will begin to carry wild-caught Pacific and Alaskan salmon. Prices will initially be high but they historically decline and stabilize. During the height of the summer, wild-caught Sockeye, King (Chinook), Keta (Chum), and Coho should all be available, and some days the fresh fish case boasts three or even four varieties for you to choose from. Demand can be high though, especially as new seasons open, but we are happy to reserve product for you with just a phone call.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Fish are an excellent source for these nutrients, and there is evidence from multiple studies that dietary fish or fish oil supplements improves cardiovascular health in multiple ways. Wild-caught salmon or high-quality “eco-farmed” salmon is the popular choice for many people, but Arctic char, mackerel, sardines, sablefish (black cod), anchovies, shrimp, oysters, mussels, rainbow trout, albacore tuna, and Pacific halibut also contain high levels of omega-3 fatty acids. Including a variety of these omega-3-rich seafoods in your diet has several benefits: more variety of taste and preparation; savings by purchase of lower-priced fish; and minimizing the contaminants sometimes associated with some fish species.

Arctic Char and “Eco-Farming”
Arctic char, Salvelinus alpinus, is a circumpolar species found in the polar regions of North America and Europe. No other freshwater fish is found as far north—sometimes well above the Arctic Circle. Arctic char can be either anadromous (seagoing) or nonanadromous (freshwater resident). Although often compared to salmon or trout, it is a unique fish with delicate colored flesh—pale pink to orange and bright red, but this variation does not affect flavor or texture—that is firm, mildly sweet, buttery and rich with a fine flake. The high fat content of Arctic Char, necessary for its life in frigid waters, makes it very flavorful and moist. It is a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids—some rankings place it second only to salmon. Arctic Char is fished extensively in Scandinavia, and has been featured on the PBS television series “New Scandinavian Cooking.” In the kitchen, the very small edible scales make Arctic Char an alternative to the fisherman’s campfire favorite: a flour or cornmeal crusted, pan-fried, skin-on Rainbow Trout fillet. For gourmands, recipes for Arctic Char with Fennel and Orange, and Arctic Char with Potato-Morel Salad and Leek Vinegrette, can be found on the Seafood Watch Progam website (www.montereybayaquarium.org/cr/seafoodwatch.aspx).

The majority of Arctic Char available to U.S. consumers is farmed commercially in land-based, closed-loop systems with recirculating water. No antibiotics, drugs, or chemical agents (e.g. coloring) are used; wastewater is treated to minimize pollution and other detrimental habitat effects; and fish cannot escape thereby eliminating the risk of disease and parasite transfer to wild fish stock. These “eco-farming” aquaculture practices and systems are best-of-breed, and producers in these operations consider themselves both artisans and stewards of their fisheries and the environment. Arctic Char is recognized as sustainable and a best choice by Oceans Alive, Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch Program, Shedd Aquarium, Seafood Choices Alliance, and has received the endorsement of Andrew Weil, M.D. on his website.

Summer Grilling
If you’re a sturdy Cheesehead or loyal Packer fan, you may have been at the grill all winter long. For the rest of us, the time is just now arriving. Salmon is the perennial favorite on the grill—fillets, cedar planked fillets, or steaks—but the dense “steaky” meat of large, fast-swimming, predatory fish like tuna and marlin are also tasty over the fire. Love cod? No problem: more delicate and flaky fish fillets can be grilled, but support them on a grill pan or aluminum foil to minimize damage from handling. Shellfish are great over the coals too: the quintessential Australian “shrimp on the barbie” (call us in advance and we will peel and devein our jumbo shrimp for you); oysters on the half-shell; sea scallop kabobs; lobster and king crab; whole fish; and starting in early summer, fresh soft-shell crabs.

Whole Fish
Have you seen the whole fish in our fresh fish case? They are beautiful—well, we think they are—and kids love the spectacle of fins, teeth, and colorful eyes and skin, but it’s not just for show: whole fish are easy to prepare and eat. Prices are also cheaper per pound. Ask your fishmonger and we will help you choose and prepare one.

The Seafood Center
We are privileged and proud to be your Willy Street Co-op fishmongers. The Seafood Center is Madison’s first and finest seafood source. An eye-popping, ever-changing variety of the world’s finest fresh—never frozen—seafood is delivered to us daily, and we keep an eye on sustainability issues using trusted industry sources like the Seafood Watch Program and the Marine Stewardship Council. Our knowledgeable fishmongers will inform you, provide first class service, and give you exactly what you need. You may find us on Facebook and Twitter. Thanks for reading and see you next month.