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Six Tips on Buying Fish, From Cod & Capers Owner Steve Gyland

In the wake of Oceana's recent report on South Florida fish fraud, Clean Plate Charlie had a chat with Cod & Capers' owner Steve Gyland to learn more about how to buy fresh fish. These tips are from a guy who's been working with the ocean's bounty for more than three decades.

Gyland began his career as a commercial fisherman in the '70s and eventually moved to dry land when he opened the Palm Beach Gardens fish market Cod & Capers in 1983.

Today, his new, 8,000-square-foot market and indoor/outdoor bistro-style restaurant offers more than 20 cuts of fish from all over the world, as well as a large assortment of shellfish, shrimp, and prepared seafood dishes.

Here, Gyland gives us tips for how to purchase fish -- whether you're out to dinner or in the grocery store.

1. Eat Farmed Fish
Farmed fish can be just as good -- if not better -- as wild fish, according to Gyland.

"We try to market as much local Florida fish as we can, but we can't have it all 365 days a year," said Gyland. "We have to learn how to farm our oceans responsibly, and aquaculture is the only way."

Although most people associate farmed fish with low-quality, less-healthy options, Gyland claims it's almost the exact opposite so long as the farmed fish come from distributors practicing healthy, natural methods. Some farmed salmon -- those that eat a natural diet -- provide almost double the amount of omega-3 fatty acids as wild Alaskan salmon, he says. In fact, all Atlantic salmon is farmed.

Why? It's illegal to commercially fish the dwindling Atlantic salmon species, and farming that particular fish provides a relatively cheaper option when compared to wild Alaskan catches.

In Cod & Capers, information about each farm Gyland buys from is available to consumers, which means you can do a little light reading about the organic salmon he gets from Scotland. (Unlike in the U.S., European standards allow fish to be categorized as organic.)

2. Know Your Seasons
Although buying farmed fish can be good, it doesn't protect you from fraud. Take king and sockeye salmon, the two most common wild Alaskan salmon sold to consumers. Typically a dark-red color, it's easy to spot compared to the farm-raised Atlantic salmon you see sporting wide ribbons of fat between light-orange layers.

However, sometimes it can be mistaken for other farm-raised species that look almost identical. How? Wild salmon have a busy life cycle, adults spending several years in the North Pacific before gorging on food in preparation for a long swim up the Alaskan rivers, where they spawn annually. That swim happens every year in the warmer months, usually from May to September.

So, if you see sockeye salmon being sold in December, be wary, said Gyland, because that's not a time when fishermen are harvesting that particular species. And that brings us to...

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Nicole Danna is a Palm Beach County-based reporter who began covering the South Florida food scene for New Times in 2011. She also loves drinking beer and writing about the area's growing craft beer community.
Contact: Nicole Danna

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