Is carp the new cod?

Mention the word carp and images spring to mind of koi, goldfish and some of the best sport fishing to be found - but not carp fishing for food.  

In fact, the rearing and eating of carp is by far the oldest fish farming tradition in the UK.  We know for certain that medieval monks farmed this fish for the plate and before that - well who knows - but it is certain that our distant ancestors were chomping on carp, long before they ever learned to order cod and chips.

Fast forward to today and sales of carp are on the up - albeit from a low base. This increase is partly explained by the recent influx into the country of confirmed carp aficionados, the Poles, Hungarians and other eastern Europeans.  But perhaps too, we are beginning to see a reawakening of our long lost love for the fish.  

Green credentials

Unlike farmed salmon and trout which require a constant stream of fresh water, carp are perfectly happy in a still water ecosystem.  A hardy creature that’s easy to care for, carp does not require processed food pellets made from wild fish.  

Home grown mealworms and the browsings of a natural pond environment are pretty much all that is required to keep this fish happy and healthy.  In fact, it’s perfectly feasible to grow carp for the plate in your own back garden, and without the cost of carp fishing gear.

Introduce some baby carp to your pond now and in about three years time, they will have grown to about a pound in weight according to the Telegraph. That’s plate sized hunks of protein, at virtually zero cost.

At a time when stocks of sea fish are imploding, perhaps it is time to consider making the change from saltwater to freshwater fish.  Carp is by no means the only freshwater species that can be grown and harvested sustainably.  Tench for example, is a fish prized by the French and Germans and the humble Gudgeon that inhabits the bottoms of canals and lakes, makes an excellent alternative to whitebait.    

Taste test

So what would it take to put Carp back on the British menu?  

The problem with freshwater fish is predominantly one of perception.  Ask anyone what they think Carp would taste like and it is likely that they will answer, ‘muddy’.

A creature that forages for food in stagnant, murky water and mud certainly runs the risk of tasting ‘pond like’, but by purging the fish in aerated spring water for a few days, all traces of muddiness are removed.  The flesh when cooked is reputed to be creamy, soft and utterly delicious.   

And let’s not forget the main reason why carp fishing is such a popular sport.  These are wily, creatures that require considerable skill to catch.  Could it be that in farmed carp, we have the angler’s ultimate species?  Grow it, catch it and then eat it.  What could be more satisfying than that?