Crawfish season is in full swing in Southwest Louisiana and as such is a much sought after crustacean in these parts. Almost as numerous as the mudbugs themselves are the many ways to prepare them. But one way stands head and shoulders above the rest — the good old fashioned crawfish boil! Read on for a few fun facts you may or may not know about these delicious creatures.
1. Crawfish are freshwater crustaceans abundant in the swamps and marshes of south Louisiana. Although wild-caught crawfish, particularly from the Atchafalaya Basin, are still significant to production, there are thousands of acres of crawfish ponds managed by farmers in the lower Gulf Coast regions that provide a consistent and readily available supply of fresh crawfish.
2. Commercial sales of crawfish did not begin until the late 1800s. This is partly due to the use of nets, which allowed a larger, less time consuming harvest. But until approximately the 1960s, crawfish was largely stigmatized as “poor man’s food.” For many, crawfish was nothing more than bait. Today many rice farmers raise crawfish alongside their rice crop. The muddy ponds rice is grown in are a perfect environment for crawfish. Demand for crawfish has grown so high that crawfish farming is now required for meeting consumer need. Roughly 90 percent of all crawfish coming from Louisiana is farmed and, depending on the source, is said to create a $120 to $300 million a year industry.
3. Crawfish season has expanded in recent years and this year the crop is not only plentiful but larger in size than at this time in 2016. A very mild winter can take the credit for some of that. Suppliers usually have their first marketable crop around November or December and the crawfish just get bigger and better as the months go by — right up until June when the weather gets too hot for the critters and they head for cooler climes deep in the mud.
4. Crawfish reach adulthood in two to six months and during mating season fights between males are common. These fights are competitive with males sometimes losing a claw which, as nature would have it, is quickly regrown. When crawfish molt or shed, they eat the calcium-rich discarded “skin” in order to help develop a new strong shell.
5. Some, but not all crawfish are sized or graded, but small to medium ones give the highest meat yield and are easier to peel. On average six to seven pounds of live crawfish will provide one pound of peeled tails. You should plan on purchasing three to four pounds of live crawfish per person. Others say that anything less than five pounds a person is too low.
LSU AgCenter and Louisiana Crawfish Promotion and Research Board