The humble sardine has made a comeback on the West Coast after being smacked down by a double whammy: over-fishing and cooling ocean temperatures. Original US fisheries began developing sardines for WWI as a way to deliver high quality nutrition in a can. A member in good standing of the herring family, there are over 20 different species worldwide, and the one we find in West Coast waters is the Pacific Sardine.
The sardine hails from Sardinia, an island off the coast of Italy. It is considered to be an optimal source of all sorts of vitamins as well as an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids and a host of other vitamins and minerals. Since the sardine is so small its near the bottom of the food chain, which keeps the level of mercury and other contaminants to a minimum.
A good sardine should feel firm to the touch if you’re buying them fresh, and have shiny skin and clear eyes, or as clear of eyes as a dead fish can have. They’re ready to eat if canned, but if you buy them fresh they need to be cleaned and gutted first using fresh water.
Considered milder tasting than an anchovy, the sardine comes packed in olive oil or water, and is excellent served with a little squeeze of lemon, olive oil, onions and or garlic.
Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch Rating
Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch rates Mediterranean sardines as “avoid” but Pacific Sardines are rated “Best Choice” and are sold under the Iwashi, and Pilchard market names. Be certain they’re from the US or Canada!
In Season at the Market