As readers of this blog may know, Kebabistan has been diligently tracking the global expansion of caviar production from its ancestral home in the Caspian region to such far flung places as Argentina, South Korea and even the desert of the Arabian Gulf. Now add Israel to the list of countries that are churning out caviar for the upscale masses. Reports NPR's The Salt food blog:
At Galilee Caviar in Kibbutz Dan, Israel, there are pools of sturgeon everywhere you look. The massive fish aren't much to look at — they look like a cross between a seal and a catfish. But they demand a high price — about $2,500 each, says Yigal Ben Tzvi, the owner of the company.
And each fish is a 10- to 15-year investment, he says. When we visited, it was the day Ben Tzvi began hauling these monsters out of their ponds and checking them for the quality of the caviar inside.
The fish are carefully cultivated and the females selected for osetra caviar production. The whole thing has the air of a hospital operation. The fish are reeled in by net, and then anesthetized in smaller tanks. Biologist Avshalom Hurvitz sits at a small white table, gingerly pulling back tissue with a scalpel to show us what's inside.
"These are the eggs, and they are 3 millimeters in diameter. They have a pale gray color, which is nice. I see no fat tissue here. It means that the yield of caviar will be high," Huvitz says.
Considering the growing number of sturgeon farming operations are out there these days, can caviar prices maintain their high level? Will the world's gourmet markets be soon flooded with cut-rate caviar? Stay tuned.
[UPDATE: Tipster JK points sent a link to an ABC news story about the sturgeon of the Galilee, giving the story a more (and slightly forced) geopolitical spin, pointing out that the Israeli production of caviar make take away business from Iran. Story and video here.]