Caviar is a delicacy consisting of salted, non-fertilized fish eggs and the best types vary in size, color and texture. However, the fish eggs cannot come from just any type of fish. In order for the fish eggs to be officially used as caviar, the fish eggs must come from a sturgeon. The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization, states that fish eggs from a sturgeon, also called sturgeon roe, is the only roe type in official caviar. Sturgeons have boney, silver-colored plates covering most of their body and they can grow to be over 10 feet long. Sturgeons inhabit salt-water seas, lakes and oceans. Seasonally, sturgeon will go to freshwater steams to spawn. Traditionally, caviar is harvested from wild sturgeon in the Caspian and Black Sea. Today, caviar comes from sturgeon all over the world. The roe is harvested from adult female sturgeon. After harvesting, the female sturgeon is returned to the water. Wild sturgeon and sturgeons from farms are harvested for their roe. However, the most expensive caviar still comes from the Caspian and the Black Sea.
Beluga is the most popular, and the most expensive type of caviar. Market prices range anywhere from $3,000 to $10,000 a pound. Beluga caviar gets its name from the Beluga Sturgeon. The Beluga sturgeon fish is the largest of the sturgeon breeds, and mainly lives in the Caspian Sea. The Caspian Sea is a large salt-water lake bordered by Turkmenistan, Russia, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan and Iran. Beluga sturgeon fish can also be found in the Black Sea surrounded by Europe. The Beluga sturgeon takes at least 20 years to mature. The sturgeon must be mature before its eggs can be harvested. The long maturation process of the Beluga makes its roe very rare. Due to over fishing and over harvesting of the Beluga in recent decades, the fish has been protected under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. The United States Fish and Wildlife Service has also banned the importation of Beluga caviar harvested from the Caspian and Black Sea into America. If you do get your hands on some Beluga caviar, you should serve it with a non-metallic spoon. Metal will impart a metallic taste to the delicacy. Beluga caviar, due to its rare and expensive status, is usually served by itself or on top of a piece of toast.
Sterlet is another popular type of caviar. Sterlet caviar gets its name from the Sterlet sturgeon. Sterlet caviar is also known as the “Imperial Caviar,” due to its original association with feasts served by the Russian Czars. Today, the Sterlet sturgeon fish is almost extinct in the Black Sea near Russia. This makes Black Sea Sterlet caviar extremely rare and expensive. Today, the Sterlet's roe, used in most caviar, is harvested in the ocean waters off the coast of the United Kingdom and Europe. Sterlet caviar has smaller eggs than Beluga caviar, and is typically served on top of toast. Sterlet caviar is also used to garnish potatoes, or a dollop of crème fraiche. Like the Beluga caviar, Sterlet caviar should not be served with a metallic spoon.
Osserta caviar is considered to be the most flavorful of the popular types of caviar. It is also considered the most “elite” caviar in the world. In fact, Russian Imperial Osserta, harvested from the Black Sea, is the most rare caviar in the world. Each batch of Osserta caviar has a slightly different smell, taste and texture. No two batches of Osserta are alike, which is part of its appeal to the high-end consumer. Osserta sturgeon fish mainly inhabit the Caspian Sea. The fish matures at age 15 and can weigh up to 400 pounds. Osserta roe is dark gray, and has a smooth, nutty taste. It can be served by itself on a non-metallic spoon, or it can be served on toast wedges.
Sevruga caviar is the smallest, and most affordable of the popular caviars. Sevruga sturgeon fish are harvested from the Caspian Sea near Iran and Russia. The Sevruga is the most common type of sturgeon in the Caspian Sea. They mature at age seven, and reproduce quickly. The Sevruga fish is the smallest of the caviar sturgeons. Sevruga roe is green-gray in color and is very small. Sevruga has a crunchy texture with a deep, salty flavor. Sevruga is best when served with food. Sevruga caviar can be used in cooking. A little Sevruga caviar added to a sauce or salad dressing can bring out the salt and texture of a dish.