For the past month our kitchen has seen a lot of small, oily fish. With the onset of spring, our diet sees a natural shift. As storage vegetables run low, so do our cravings for red meat and slow cooked preparations. To assist our cravings for lighter meals and simple sources of proteins, Camille and I have been adding in a lot of sardines and other canned fish to the mix.
Belonging to the family Clupeidae sardines are one of nature's most nutritious gifts! Although sardines are available fresh, they are mostly purchased and consumed from the can. Unlike canned tuna, sardines are a more sustainable offering from the sea. If looking for a food that travels well, is nutritionally dense, sustainably sourced, and easy on the wallet, there aren't too many ingredients that can compare to sardines.
While there are many reasons to enjoy fresh fish, I find sardines are one of the easiest and more nutritious fish to get into your body.
Sardines Store Less Toxins
Nuclear fallouts, toxic waterways, and oil spills have devastated our oceans and the wild life that calls the waters their home. Large predatory fish like tuna are showing to The NRDC suggests small servings or none at all of fish that are not only high in mercury, but also on the verge of extinction. For those of you still wanting to enjoy the great taste and health benefits of fish, it is suggested to seek out small, oily fish like sardines, anchovies, mackerel, and herring. Fish lower on the food chain tend to be the best for us since they don't accumulate the amount of mercury and toxins that larger, more predatory fish like tuna contain.
Sardines are Sustainable
With overfishing and poor management by fisheries, gone are the days where I will purchase any fish that looks fresh and appealing to my eyes. I now utilize Seafood Watch for all my seafood recommendations. According to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, Pacific caught sardines are the "Best Choice" and preferred over those being harvested out of the Atlantic ocean.
Sardines caught via purse seine allow for the most controlled method of harvesting and have proven to be a sustainable method to ensure future bountiful harvests of this delicious fish.
Sardines Are Nutritious!
Small, oily fish like sardines are jam packed with nutrients and offer a valuable source of protein. High in omega-3 fatty acids, eating sardines can be a sensible protocol to prevent cardiovascular disease. Besides being a great source for minerals, sardines are high in B6 + B12 along with vitamins A and D.
Sardines are Perfect on the Go!
Sardines are lightweight, pack well, and won't pop or break while in commute. Besides the potential evil stare that may come your way if opening up a can in public, these little fish of the sea can travel just about anywhere.
No matter where I venture off to, I am always sure to pack a few tins just in case I need a quick snack fix. What I love about sardines is their ability to satiate my body without the denseness that comes with snacking on nuts or other dense protein sources.
Sardines Store Well
When the next blizzard or hurricane warning flashes on your tv screen or smart phone, do yourself a favor and purchase a case of sardines rather than a loaf of white bread and a gallon of milk. Sardines are a valuable resource for those looking to keep nutritious foods in your pantry for long term emergency storage. As a bonus, in many cases, the flavor of sardines will actually improve the longer they sit.
Without being an "enthusiastic prepper", I do see the importance of having storage foods on hand for those "just in case" moments. Besides salt curing fish or meat, sardines are one of the easiest way to store quality sources of fat and protein without the use of salt or a dehydrator.
Sardines Taste Great!
If the nutritional profile of sardines isn't enough to sell you on them, then maybe their taste will! Sardines are absolutely delicious and their ability to work with a wide range of ingredients makes them a staple pantry item.
While I prefer sardines packed in water, you can find an array of flavors to make them perfect straight from the can. Mustard, olive oil, or tomato sauce are just a few additions that make canned sardines irresistible.
Our Favorite Sardines
Our top choice for fresh and canned seafood comes from the chilly waters of the North Atlantic. Bar Harbor Kippers are one of our favorites and come in a good sized tin. Other enjoyable sardines come from Wild Planet and Cole's Trout.
How to Eat Sardines
What I love about sardines is their ability to work with a wide range of preparations. Below are just a few ways I love to incorporate these tiny fish into my meals.
- Enjoy straight out of the can
- Top a salad
- Top a cracker
- Mediterranean platter w/ olives, cheeses, cured meats, and berries
- Flake and make fish cakes or fritters
- Marinate with lemon, garlic, olive oil, and lots of parsley
- Add to any salad as Camille does nearly every day for lunch!
- 3 (2 oz) cans of sardines, in water preferably
- 2 celery stalks, minced
- 1 large carrot, minced
- 1/3 cup minced onion
- 1 scallion, sliced thin
- 1/4 cup chopped parsley leaves
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1-2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 1/2 cup or more homemade mayonnaise or aioli
- sea salt to taste
- Open the sardine cans and drain out the liquid. (I always give it to my cat :) )
- Mince the vegetables and chop the fresh herbs then place in a mixing bowl along with the sardines. Add the salt, garlic powder and dill then use a fork or wooden spoon to mash the fish and mix it together with the vegetables.
- Once combined, add about 1/4 cup of the mayo, mix thoroughly, adding more mayo as needed to reach desired consistency.
- Add a few splashes of apple cider vinegar, stir well then taste and adjust seasonings.
- Enjoy over a salad, on top of sourdough bread, or on injera with cultured vegetables and greens.