Pike and caraway have been named the Fish and Medicinal Plant of the Year for 2016. Both play a considerable role as food products. What does this mean for consumers? TÜV SÜD’s experts inform about the role of the pike and caraway as food products, investigating questions such as the significance of 'regional origin' labelling for pike and caraway in Germany.
Pike is the Fish of the Year for 2016. While included in the Red List of threatened species, the northern pike (Esox lucius) is not currently threatened by extinction. For withdrawal and spawning, this species needs intact flood plains and the banks of water bodies; these may range from ponds to large lakes, but even include running water and near-shore brackish-water masses. Threatened by habitat loss, the pike has become a rare guest in Germany’s freshwater bodies.
Predator fish in the food chain
The pike is a very popular food fish. However, it is also an aggressive predator and, as such, not suitable for aquaculture. Breeders therefore started to cross-breed the northern pike and the true muskellunge to produce the tiger muskie, a peaceful species that can also be cultivated in large quantities in hatcheries.
In Germany, the annual catch of freshwater pike has ranged from 180 to 230 t in recent years. Most pike are caught in ponds and rivers in the states of Brandenburg and Mecklenburg. Peak season for pike fishing is autumn. At around 80 – 90 kcal per 100 g, pike is very low in fat. It is sold fresh or deep-frozen. Fresh or frozen, pike lovers should make sure to keep the cold chain intact from the time of purchase to processing, as fish is highly perishable due to its sensitive protein structure. The flesh of pike is firm and white, but also very bony. Given this, in haute cuisine pike is generally used for forcemeat or quenelles de brochet.
Northern pike is not to be confused with hake, a member of the whiting family popular in southern Europe. It is caught mainly in the Atlantic and Southern Pacific and increasingly sold either whole or frozen as fish fillets. A glance at the producer’s declaration (name or origin of the fish) generally tells consumers all they need to know.
Caraway – more than a matter of taste
Caraway is one of the oldest spices in Europe. While both its leaves and its roots are edible, its seeds are the most popular and are used for seasoning cabbage, sauerkraut, potatoes, roast pork, cheese and baked goods. Caraway as a spice is mainly cultivated in Germany, Eastern Europe, the Netherlands and Egypt. Consumers who prefer regional products should make sure to read the denominations of origin. However, experts warn the public against collecting or growing caraway themselves. Fool’s parsley and water hemlock, two toxic plants, look similar to caraway and might be confused with it. They can be found in meadows and pastures and at the wayside. Given this, proof of origin and quality testing should always be a top priority for caraway.
Caraway is also an ingredient in herbal teas. By nature, caraway contains little to no pyrrolizidine alkaloids, a group of substances that can be harmful to health if consumed in higher doses over longer periods. For reasons of food safety, herbal tea producers therefore rely on comprehensive laboratory analyses and other methods to keep this substance to a minimum throughout the supply chain. Based on its positive effects on the gastrointestinal tract, caraway has been voted Medicinal Plant of the Year for 2016.
Press contact: Carolin Eckert