Dietribes: Salmon


• Salmon are anadromous, meaning that they are born in fresh water, spend most of their life in the sea, and return to fresh water to spawn. President Obama made a crossover bureaucracy joke about it in his State of the Union address, saying "The Interior Department is in charge of salmon while they're in fresh water, but the Commerce Department handles them when they're in saltwater. And I hear it gets even more complicated once they're smoked."

• So how do the salmon manage to find their way back? They use their sensitivity to Earth's magnetic field to guide them home, which is tied to their olfactory senses. But exactly how that works, scientists still aren't sure.

• The trip is by no means a lark - males who survive the journey "are often gaunt, with grotesquely humped backs, hooked jaws, and battle-torn fins. The females are swollen with a pound or more of eggs. Both have large white patches of bruised skin on their backs and sides." The lack of body fat on the way home means that most of the fish will die en route.

• But salmon are a hardy breed! In fact, in what a biologist is calling “a fisheries Jurassic Park,” Alouette River sockeye salmon have returned to spawn nearly 80 years after the original Alouette run became extinct.

• Salmon is an exceptionally healthy fish, packed full with omega-3 fatty acids (that would be the good kind of fat). Unlike tuna and other fish high on the food chain, they aren't also potentially full of mercury. Wild-caught Pink, Coho and Sockeye are the best varieties (according to this excellent book, which explores in depth many of the environmental issues with fishing).

• From the Department of Do Not Want: Salmon flavored vodka. The mixture is intended to complement Bloody Marys. "'I think there was some madness and some drunkenness involved, honestly,' said Toby Foster, an Alaska Distillery partner and the one charged with coming up with new flavors with Alaska themes." Ya don't say?

• A better alternative way to enjoy salmon: salmon jerky!

• Is this considered green energy? Scientists have made LED bulbs from salmon DNA.

• The name Salmon is also not unheard of, as in the fascinating Salmon Chase.

• What do wild salmon populations look like? It can be hard to tell unless you can ask somebody in the know, which is why seals have been enlisted as salmon census takers in the North Pacific.

• I learned this trick of how to poach salmon in the dishwasher a long time ago, but have never had the guts to try it. Has anyone else?

• Not enough salmon for you? Then this edible landscape may be your dream (seriously I have to have salmon for lunch now, just like this Grizzly. Ok maybe not exactly like that Grizzly ...)

• What are your favorite ways to eat salmon? In sushi, as lox, baked, broiled, grilled, smoked, salmon salad? I like it any way I can get it, and eat it two or three times a week!

Hungry for more? Venture into the Dietribes archive.

‘Dietribes’ appears every other Wednesday. Food photos taken by Johanna Beyenbach. You might remember that name from our post about her colorful diet.