Monday, September 27

Is the seafood of the months better with ‘erre’ or is it a myth?


From September to April, or what is the same, September, October, November, December, January, February, March and April, would be the months indicated for the consumption of seafood. At least, those that assure us a higher quality. Or so they say …

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What is true in it and how far does the myth go, if any? Does science have any explanation for this theory? What do the merchants say? Is it dangerous to eat seafood in summer?

What do they say in the fish shop?

At the Hermanos Cobo fish shop in Sitges they clear up the most practical doubts. In the first place, not all seafood is the same and there is one in summer and another in autumn or winter. They say they sell shellfish all year round, but they recommend mussels, clams and, in general, all bivalves, including oysters.

The reason they give us is that this shellfish is bigger and meatier when the temperature is higher, since it eats –filters– more. With the water below 15ºC, their activity and growth is greatly reduced, so they grow little.

This is the reason, they tell us, why the mollusks are smaller in winter, except for those made of punt. And it is that the cultivation in areas such as Rías Baixas or Delta del Ebro has made it possible to ensure the supply of bivalves throughout the year with acceptable quality.

They also explain to us in the fishmonger that when they sell more lobster, lobster, shrimp, etc., it is in summer, curiously when they least advise it. But not for lack of quality of the animal but for “the difficulty to maintain the freshness of the supply”.

“With this August heat”, they say, “lobsters and lobsters die before reaching noon and then they cost more to sell, on the other hand in winter this type of seafood is much better preserved and we can ensure freshness”.

A certain rule … a century ago

As the journalist Mònica Escudero explains in this article, the rule or advice on the months with ‘r’ was born precisely in the first decades of the twentieth century, when the consumption of seafood became popular throughout Spain but there is still no network of refrigeration systems that guarantee its correct conservation.

For this reason, in hot months – from May to August – it was more difficult to keep it cool in its distribution outside the fishing areas, and therefore ensure its food safety, since seafood products degrade very quickly in the heat and they are a source of abundant poisoning.

On the other hand, in the months with ‘r’ the cold is the tonic –although with climate change perhaps we should rule out September and October– and the preservation of the fish was ensured much better by traditional methods. However, this standard has ceased to be valid as soon as cold rooms, refrigerators, and a fast distribution network, always refrigerated, have been invented.

Does it affect the breeding season?

It is also argued that in the spring and summer months most crustaceans are in the reproductive season and this reduces their strength and growth, so the quality of their meat is lower.

But from the Association of Retail Businessmen of Fish and Frozen Products of the Autonomous Community of Madrid (ADEPESCA) they deny this theory and explain that the recommendations are due to environmental issues of respect for the reproductive stage, to ensure productions.

And of course, not all shellfish coincide in their reproductive stage nor do they all have it in summer. What’s more, just as it shows this calendar carried out by ADEPESCA, some of the main species have their best time in summer and others in winter.

So currently this recommendation no longer has support, although it did in the past, and of course, it is not advisable to consume any product outside the recommended season, much less if there is a fishing ban.

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