Relish in the Seasons of Lowcountry Seafood – Bountiful & Available
By Leah Speer
Isn’t it funny how simply the aroma of fresh seafood so perfectly prepared can conjure up a sentimental yearning for the joy experienced in a certain season? While nostalgia stirs up a wistful desire to return to a former time in your life, you can stay present here in South Carolina and enjoy bountiful seafood in every season.
Whether it’s the majestic salt marshes, sprawling beaches, or susurrant sea oats, the scenic Lowcountry serves as the backdrop to many year-round gatherings with delectable seafood dishes as the centerpiece. Thankfully, here in coastal Carolina you are blessed with being able to enjoy in most seafood all year long. Of course, there are a few exceptions.
Since oysters that are shucked in cooler months present a firm, briny texture that boasts flavor, it’s been said that good oysters are only available in the “r” months. While this is generally true, you may be surprised to enjoy tasty oysters in other months as the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) shares that conditions may warrant the season to lengthen.
Around the same time as oysters, we’ll find fellow edible mollusk, the clam, to be quite delightful. At its peak of freshness, clams are cherished for their versatility— they go well with so many different herbs, spices, and sauces, including hot sauce, cocktail sauce, and garlic butter sauce. Don’t forget a lemon wedge!
A harbinger of Spring in the south is the full of rich flavor, shad roe. Shad roe is the egg sac of the female American shad fish, a member of the herring family. A sort of sponge that soaks up the flavors with which it’s cooked, shad roe is a bit of a dying harvest as very few know how to prepare this delicacy. Only available for a few weeks in March, shad roe is enjoyed pickled, baked, fried or roasted.
For soft shell crab, spring is their season to shine! This seasonal delight, is an intoxicating edible experience savored in many ways, especially pan fried, deep fried, and grilled. Soft shell crabs are a highly anticipated oxymoron treat that delivers sweet with salty and crunchy with tender.
Beyond those seasonal delights, let’s take a dive into seafood you can enjoy year-round. Good food is the one thing that never fails to bring people together. What an experience! It’s the echo of laughter as family and friends strike wooden mallets into stone crab claw shells. It’s the zing of Old Bay on your fingertips as you de-shell shrimp at a lowcountry boil. It’s the warm drawn butter that glistens on your fork as you bring in a succulent bite of juicy stone crab claw meat.
According to the SCDNR, the blue crab’s scientific name translates to “savory beautiful swimmer.” Sweet and savory, actually! From crab dips and crab cakes to soups and bisques, many recipes shine with the blue crab’s sweet meat.
Let’s not forget the array of fresh fish that you shouldn’t hesitate to enjoy.
Striped bass is a healthy, sustainable form of seafood that delivers tender, flakey fillets. This versatile fish will please a variety of taste buds. One thing to note, SCDNR has limited the acquisition of striped Bass to no more than 10 per person per day.
A fresh catch of triggerfish from our coastal waters delivers a sweet depth of flavor. Some describe the white, flaky meat to be similar to crab meat or grouper. For those with a taste for spice, grouper is a fresh-off-the-boat amazing when prepared blackened, though many enjoy it grilled or fried. However you prefer this year-round fish to be prepared, the abundantly meaty grouper is divine.
Southern flounder’s reputation as table fare is unsurpassed in South Carolina. Flounder may be prepared in a variety of ways. For instance, broil the fish with butter, lemon juice and a flavorful seasoning. Or bake it or fry it. Take it one notch up and stuff it with crabmeat.
If cooked properly, Wahoo’s delicate and flaky texture confesses a sweet, mild flavor. Though available all year round, you’ll find it tastiest between May and September. Meanwhile, red snapper with its delicate meat, is prepared in many ways, including whole or filleted. This tasty seafood favorite can be pan-fried, grilled, steamed, baked, broiled, or deep-fried. Firm but tender, black sea bass is a lean fish with a mild, sweet flavor. Its unique small flakes can boast great flavor when cooked properly. Also, boasting a mild and sweet taste is cobia, which can be served in many ways including ceviche.
The firm and lean texture of Mahi Mahi gets irresistibly flaky when cooked and has a relatively mild taste. Mahi mahi is diverse and can be baked, grilled, fried, or broiled to make a delicious dinner. Also flaky, amberjack is a white fish with a sweet and tasty flavor. Add a bit of lemon, butter and wine and you may feel like you’ve been swept away to a certain tropical paradise.
A change of season is always enchanting. No matter which South Carolina season you find yourself in, it’s a blessing to know there are an overwhelming,delicious array of seafood to indulge!