Monday, April 09, 2007

Lenten "mudbugs"

Photos by Mark M. Hancock / © The Beaumont Enterprise

A sign invites Interstate-10 motorist to stop for crawfish near Hamshire on Thursday, April 5, 2007. The last Friday of lent is traditionally a high point in the crawfish season. In Texas, this year's yield was good due to several reasons including favorable weather.

A duck floats in a flooded crawfish field at Southeast Texas Crawfish Farm near Hamshire. Many Texas rice farms are converting to crawfish farms as the crustaceans have gained commercial popularity.

Crawfish collection boats use a steel-paddled wheel attached to a shallow-water boat (inclusively called crawfish combine) instead of a propeller. The wheel slowly pulls the combine through the mud and shallow water. The shallow water, about two-feet deep, in most crawfish ponds make propeller-powered boats an impossibility while airboats are cost prohibitive.

Dirty crawfish wait in a boat to be placed in purging tanks at Southeast Texas Crawfish Farm. Crawfish breathe through gills contained within their shells. A crawfish's ability to burrow into mud and create a water chamber allows it to move inland where other crusteaceans can't. This is why the animal is often called a "mudbug."

Geranimo Vera dumps captured crawfish into a purging tank at Southeast Texas Crawfish Farm. Freshly harvested crawfish are placed into purging tanks of filtered fresh water.

Sevando Salinas dumps crawfish from a purging tank into a loading tray at Southeast Texas Crawfish Farm. The purging tanks allow crawfish to clean themselves and remove mud from their gills. This process naturally reduces the size of their sand veins and reduces their "fishy" odor and taste.

Freshly purged crawfish are hoisted from a purging tank at Southeast Texas Crawfish Farm.

Sevando Salinas removes fish and separated crawfish claws from purged crawfish at Southeast Texas Crawfish Farm. Only live crawfish are placed into bags. Dead crawfish should never be cooked or eaten.

A large crawfish tries to escape a bagging tray after being purged at Southeast Texas Crawfish Farm. Crawfish take about three months to reach maturity.

Sevando Salinas scoops live, purged crawfish into a bag at Southeast Texas Crawfish Farm. Live crawfish are sold by the pound.

Alan Gaulding (left) weighs bags of crawfish while Hal Fischer (right) tags them at Southeast Texas Crawfish Farm. Once weighed, the crawfish are placed into 40-degree Ferenheit coolers.

They can live several days in this environment because they go into hybernation. Once warmed to room temperature, they become active again. Then, they are placed into pots of boiling water with spices and lemon halves. They typically don't survive the final step of the process. ;-}

Please read "Crawfish easier to find than last year" by Mike D. Smith.

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