Saturday, August 10, 2013

Tilapia - Food Fish

Tilapia were one of the three main types of fish caught in Biblical times from the Sea of Galilee. At that time they were called musht, or commonly now even "St. Peter's fish." The name "St. Peter's fish" comes from the story in the Gospel of Matthew about the apostle Peter catching a fish that carried a coin in its mouth, though the passage does not name the fish.

The tilapia is a large food fish of African origin which has gradually spread throughout the tropical and sub-tropical regions of the world, for man has taken a hand and introduced it into their diet within areas that were previously tilapia-free, so to speak.  In the beginning, this fish was a resident in tropical Africa, in the Nile basin and in Israel, Jordan, and Syria.  It lives in slow-flowing lakes and rivers, as well as in estuaries and saltwater lagoons.  It acclimatizes itself well to new habitats and its resistance is absolutely incredible.  For example, Graham's tilapia does well in the exceedingly alkaline waters of Lake Magadi in Kenya, where the temperature roughly reaches 80 to 112 degrees Fahrenheit.  There are many different species of tilapia...

Because of its ability to become very adapted to different habitats, and above all for its food value to populations lacking protein, the tilapia has been introduced into many areas, both voluntarily and involuntarily.  Thus it appeared unexpectedly in Java, in 1969, without anyone knowing how it travelled from East Africa to the East Indies.  It then proceeded to spread spontaneously throughout the Indonesian islands.  This beloved food fish known as the tilapia, has also colonized the waters of Texas and Florida - while sometimes becoming a serious menace to other native species of fish.

In 1951, the breeding of tilapia begun in Madagascar.  In several areas, tilapias are kept to clean the lakes and marshland from the dangerous mosquito larvae which infest them.  Even during the time of the Ancient Egyptians, this fish was very appreciated and it is certainly tilapias which are responsible for the biblical "miraculous draught of fishes."

Personally, I think it is a decent-tasting fish.  I usually either bread it and throw it in the deep fryer, or I lightly oil it and quickly pan-fry it.  I have also baked this particular fish.  I'd say that this food fish is relatively cheap when buying in the frozen food section of common grocery stores - especially when you compare it to other fishes like catfish.

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Side Note:  Fish like the tilapia are high in Omega-3 fatty acids; cheers!

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