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Anchovy facts for kids

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Anchovy closeup.jpg
Scientific classification

An anchovy is a small, common forage fish of the family Engraulidae. Most species are found in marine waters, but several will enter brackish water and some in South America are restricted to fresh water.

The more than 140 species are placed in 17 genera; they are found in the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific Oceans, and in the Black Sea and the Mediterranean Sea. Anchovies are usually classified as oily fish.


Anchovies at the Monterey Bay Aquarium

The anchovy is a small green fish with blue reflections. These reflections are due to a silver stripe that runs along the length of the fish from the base of the caudal fin.

Its maximum length is nine inches and the body shape varies with more slender fish in northern populations. The snout is blunt with small, sharp teeth in both jaws. It eats plankton and fish larvae.

The Anchovy can tolerate a wide range of temperatures and salinity. Large schools can be found in shallow, brackish areas with muddy bottoms, as in estuaries and bays.

Spawning occurs between October and March, but not in water colder than 12 °C. The anchovy appears to spawn 100 kilometers from the shore, near the surface of the water.

As a food source

Brown Pelican21K
The Brown Pelican feeds on anchovy

The anchovy is a good food source for almost every predatory fish in its environment, including the California halibut, rock fish, yellowtail, sharks, chinook, and coho salmon.

It is also extremely important to marine mammals and birds; for example, California brown pelicans and elegant terns. The breeding success of these birds is strongly connected to anchovy abundance. As time progresses and the anchovy population drops, the population of the predatory species are also expected to decline.

European anchovy (4824766116)
Fried anchovies

They are also eaten by humans. Anchovies preserved by being gutted and salted in brine, matured, then packed in oil, are an important food fish, both popular and infamous for their strong flavor.

In Roman times, they were the base for the fermented fish sauce called garum that was a staple of cuisine and an item of long-distance commerce produced in industrial quantities.

Restes de garum, cetaria de Santa Pola, segle IV
Remains of garum, Museum of the Sea of ​​Santa Pola, 4th century

Today they are a key ingredient in Caesar salad and Spaghetti alla Puttanesca, and are often used as a pizza topping. Because of the strong flavor they are also an ingredient in several sauces, including Worcestershire sauce and many fish sauces, and in some versions of Café de Paris butter.

They are most commonly marketed in small tins, either as "flat" filets, or as "rolled anchovies" where each fillet is rolled around a caper. Both are quite salty. The flat fillets are usually more salty than the rolled anchovies. They are also marketed in jars and tubes as a paste, mostly for use in making sauces, such as anchovy essence.

Anchovy Fish Fry
Anchovy fish fry

Fishermen also use anchovies as bait for larger fish such as tuna and sea bass.

The strong taste that people associate with anchovies is due to the curing process. Fresh anchovies, known in Italy as alici, have a much softer and gentler flavor. In English-speaking countries, alici are sometimes called "white anchovies", and are often served in a weak vinegar marinade.

This particular preservation method is associated with the coastal town of Collioure in south east France. The white fillets are sold in heavy salt, or the more popular garlic or tomato oil and vinegar marinade packs.

ChickenWhiteAnchovyLemonAgnolottiSucrine (8325707092)
Chicken with white anchovy

The European anchovy is the anchovy of commerce. Morocco now leads the world in canned anchovies. The anchovy industry along the coast of Cantabria is now much larger than the traditional Catalan salters, though the industry was only started in Cantabria by Sicilian salters in the mid 19th century.

Setipinna taty or ikan bilis is the anchovy commonly used in South-East Asian cooking to make fish stock or sambals. Anchovy is also used to produce budu, by fermentation process.

Images for kids

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Engraulidae para niños

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