Seafood of the Week – Conch

November 12, 2013 at 9:15 AM | Posted in seafood, Seafood of the Week | 7 Comments
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Apertural view of an adult shell of the queen conch Lobatus gigas

Apertural view of an adult shell of the queen conch Lobatus gigas

Conch (/ˈkɒŋk/ or /ˈkɒntʃ/) is a common name that is applied to a number of different medium to large-sized sea snails or their shells. The term generally applies to large sea snails whose shell has a high spire and a noticeable siphonal canal (in other words, the shell comes to a point at both ends).
True conches are marine gastropod molluscs in the family Strombidae, specifically in the genus Strombus and other closely related genera such as Eustrombus.
Many species also are often called “conch”, but are not in the family Strombidae, including Melongena species (family Melongenidae), and the horse conch Pleuroploca gigantea (family Fasciolariidae). They also include the sacred chank or more correctly shankha shell (Turbinella pyrum) and other Turbinella species in the family Turbinellidae.

 

 

A group of large eastern conches or whelks for sale at a California seafood market

A group of large eastern conches or whelks for sale at a California seafood market

Second in popularity only to the escargot for edible snails, the meat of conches is used as food, either eaten raw, as in salads, or cooked, as in fritters, chowders, gumbos, and burgers. All parts of the conch meat are edible. However, some people find only the white meat appetizing.
In The Bahamas, conch is typically served as fritters and salads. Conch is considered to be the country’s main dish.
In East Asian cuisines, this seafood is often cut into thin slices and then steamed or stir-fried.
In the West Indies (and Turks and Caicos Islands in particular), local people eat conch in soups (commonly callaloo) and salads. Restaurants all over the islands serve this particular meat.
In the The Turks and Caicos Islands, the Annual Conch Festival is held in November each year, located at the Three Queen’s Bar/Restautant in Blue Hills. Local restaurateurs compete for the best and original conch dishes, and are judged by international chefs. Free sampling of the dishes follows, and other competitions, events and music happen well into the evening, making this a very popular event for islanders and tourists.
In the island of Grenada, Dominican Republic & Haiti, conch is commonly eaten in curries or in a spicy soup. It is locally referred to as lambi.
In Puerto Rico, conch is served as a ceviche, often called ensalada de carrucho (conch salad), consisting of raw conch marinated in lime juice, olive oil, vinegar, garlic, green peppers, and onions.
In Panama, conch is known as cambombia and is often served as a ceviche known as ceviche de cambombia consisting of raw conch marinated in lime juice, chopped onions, finely chopped habanero peppers and often vinegar. It is particularly popular in Panama’s Colón and Bocas del Toro provinces where many of the locals are descendants of West Indian immigrants.

 

 
Conch shells can be used as wind instruments. They are prepared by cutting a hole in the spire of the shell near the apex, and then blowing into the shell as if it were a trumpet, as in blowing horn. Sometimes a mouthpiece is used, but some shell trumpets are blown without one.
Many different kinds of molluscs can produce pearls. Pearls from the queen conch, S. gigas, are rare and have been collectors’ items since Victorian times. Conch pearls occur in a range of hues, including white, brown and orange, with many intermediate shades, but pink is the color most associated with the conch pearl, such that these pearls are sometimes referred to simply as “pink pearls”.

 

A shell of the Florida crown conch Melongena corona inhabited by a hermit crab

A shell of the Florida crown conch Melongena corona inhabited by a hermit crab

Other uses:

* Conch shells are sometimes used as decoration, as decorative planters, and in cameo making.
* In classic Mayan art, conches are shown being used in many ways, including as paint and ink holders for elite scribes, as bugles or trumpets, and as hand weapons (held by combatants by inserting their hands in the aperture).
* Some American Aboriginals used cylindrical conch columella beads as part of breastplates and other personal adornment.
* In some Afro-Caribbean and African-American cemeteries, conch shells are placed on graves.
* In some Caribbean countries such as Jamaica and the Bahamas, cleaned queen conch shells, or polished fragments, are sold, mainly to tourists, as souvenirs or in jewelry. Responding to a 2003 recommendation from CITES, some countries in the Caribbean have banned the export of queen conch shells. CITES has also asked all countries to ban import of these shells from countries that are not complying with CITES recommendations for managing the fishery. Queen conch fisheries have been closed in several countries. Conch shells or fragments taken home by tourists from noncomplying countries may be confiscated on return to the tourist’s home country while clearing customs. In the UK, conch shells are the ninth most-seized import.
* Conch shells are occasionally used as a building material, either in place of bricks, or as bulk for landfill.
* In Grenada, fishermen use the conch shell as a trumpet to announce to the community that fish is available for sale. Conches are used at Carnival times in the popular Jouvert Jump where Diab Diab (Jab Jab) blow conch shells as part of the festivities. Especially in Guadeloupe, it is not uncommon to hear conch shells being blown near ports at dawn and during Carnival times, too. Many bands are making the conch shell a main instrument.
* In the Bahamas, broken or up-turned conch shells are imbedded into the tops of outdoor walls in an effort to maintain home security; the broken or up-turned shells are sharp enough to cut any intruder who attempts to jump or crawl over the wall.
* They can also be used as a token to determine whose turn it is to make the tea. The tea maker symbolically hands over the conch to the person who will be the next to put the kettle on.

 

 

 

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