Caviar Fish Varieties
There are a few fish varieties which produce what is considered to be the world's best caviar. Here is the short list.
Beluga caviar is relatively rare. Today, only about a hundred Beluga sturgeons are caught in the Caspian Sea. They can also be found in the Black Sea, and less frequently in the Adriatic Sea. Known to be the largest sturgeon, it can measure up to six meters in length. Its massive size is reflective of the size of its eggs. Beluga caviar consists of very large eggs, which makes it very desirable. It is, in fact, the most expensive caviar.
Even though Beluga weighing up to 600 kilograms existed in the past, they rarely come in those sizes nowadays because of the modern practice of overfishing. The silver-gray Beluga is the only carnivore in the sturgeon family. It usually reaches maturity between the ages of 20 to 25. Even when mature, the Beluga sturgeon might not spawn on a yearly basis if favorable conditions do not exist. Up to 25 percent (and sometimes 50 percent) of its body weight is attributed to eggs.
The color of Beluga caviar ranges from light gray to black. The lighter shades, which come from more mature fish, are highly demanded by individuals of refined taste. Beluga caviar prices are rather high. In the United States, they reach $5,000 and higher per kilogram. In Kazakhstan, they are rather affordable at around $250 per kilogram. The rarest type of Beluga caviar is the Almas, which means diamond in Farsi and sells up to $25,000 a kilogram.
With a strong and nutty flavor, the Osetra caviar is a very popular type of Caspian Sea caviar that is harvested by Russia and Iran. It is less expensive than the Beluga and more expensive than the Sevruga. Further, it consists of eggs that are smaller than those of the Beluga and larger than those of the Sevruga.
Osetra caviar is a product of the Osetra sturgeon, which can weigh up to 200 kilograms and grow up to two meters long. The average weight of this fish, however, is 20 to 80 kilograms. Thus, it is smaller than the Beluga. The average life span of the Osetra sturgeon is around 50 to 80 years. It reaches maturity at age 12 to 15. If bred in warmer temperatures, however, maturity comes earlier.
Variety is abundant when it comes to Osetra caviar. It comes in many different colors, sizes, and flavors. Each time you eat this product, it tastes, smells and looks different. Experts say that the variations in taste occur because the Osetra is a bottom feeder. Thus, its eggs acquire the flavor of what the fish eats. With eggs that come in different colors like gold, white, dark gray, black, and dark brown, Osetra caviar is a famous elite caviar. Compared to the Beluga caviar, it is firmer. The rich Golden Osetra is a rare variety.
Sevruga caviar is intense in flavor. More affordable than the Osetra and Beluga caviars, it is a popular caviar variety. Its price is reflective of the fact that the Sevruga sturgeon is rather common; it is not rare like the Beluga. This sturgeon is also quick to reproduce. The female Sevruga reaches maturity earlier than other sturgeons. It produces eggs between the ages of seven and eight.
The eggs are at their best when the fish is around 18 to 22 years old. About 10 to 12 percent of its body weight is attributed to roe. This Caspian and Black Sea caviar consists of small eggs-smaller than that of the other two main caviar varieties. After all, Sevruga roe comes from the smallest sturgeon to be commercially caught. This caviar fish rarely weighs over 25 kilograms. Since its scales are star-shaped, it is often called the star sturgeon. The main distinctive feature of this fish, however, is its pointed muzzle that is shaped like a scythe.
Sevruga caviar consists of greenish gray or gray-black eggs. Because of its strong flavor, it is popular among caviar connoisseurs. It is also known for its rather crunchy texture. The other two main varieties of Iranian and Russian caviars are more delicate and smooth. Even though the Sevruga caviar prices are lower than that of Beluga and Osetra, they are definitely not as low as prices of caviar alternatives like hackleback and capelin caviar.
Sterlet caviar has an intense and distinctively strong flavor. This caviar comes from the lesser known Sterlet sturgeon - which is smaller than the Osetra.
Sterlet sturgeon is the smallest in term of size compared to other types of sturgeons that are harvested for their caviar. They are typically four feet in length and around 25 kilograms in weight. Female Sterlet matures after 5 to 7 years. It produces a small-grain caviar and similar to Sevruga with regard to size and over all appearance. They are traditionally harvested from the Caspian Sea and neighboring rivers. However, due to habitat destruction and over fishing, they are considered endangered in their natural habitat.
Most Sterlet caviars now come from farmed sources. After being absent from the open market for several years, they are now coming back. Thanks to the farming throughout various regions, including Europe, they are now sustainably harvested and produces high quality caviars.