Ossetra caviar (also known as Osetra and Oscietra caviar) comes from the Acipenser gueldenstaedtii. In English, this fish is known under several different names, including Russian sturgeon, Danube sturgeon and Diamond sturgeon.
This sturgeon migrates upstream from the sea to spawn in April, May and June (it’s an anadromous fish). This species reach sexual maturity at approximately 15 years of age, and can grow to be at least 80 years old. It can reach an age of at least 80 years and weigh up to 400 lbs.
In most cases, Ossetra caviar is less pricey than Beluga caviar but more expensive than the other major caviar types.
Eating Ossetra caviar
Compared to the famous Beluga sturgeon (Huso huso), the sturgeon A. gueldenstaedtii is much smaller and produce medium-sized eggs. The eggs tend to be smaller and more firm than beluga eggs, but bigger than sevruga eggs. Ossetra caviar is available in various shades of gray, brown and golden, with the most expensive variant being a golden-yellow one hailed for its unique flavor. Some of the gray variants are so dark that they look black.
Ossetra caviar is typically described as rich, smooth and complex, and with great variation from one batch to another. According to one theory, the diet of the individual A. gueldenstaedtii impacts the flavor of the roe.
In Russia, Ossetra caviar is traditionally served with blinis and smetana. Low-grade Ossetra caviar is sometimes used to stuff seafood dishes or added to salads.
The name Ossetra (sometimes spelled Osetra) is a transcription of the genitive case form осетра of the Russian word осётр. In Russian, осётр means sturgeon.
When the term Russian caviar is used without any further specification, it has traditionally denoted ossetra caviar, even though ossetra isn’t the only type of caviar produced and consumed in Russia.
Conservation and international trade
Acipenser gueldenstaedtii is listed as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List 3.1. This is the most severe category for endangered species; the next step would be Extinct in the Wild.
Since the international sale of ossetra caviar is restricted in an effort to save the species from extinction, farmed ossetra caviar has become very important to satisfy global demands for this caviar variant. When it comes to farming A. gueldenstaedtii, Israel is currently one of the leading countries and major exporters.
About the Acipenser gueldenstaedtii
- Kingdom: Animalia
- Phylum: Chordata
- Class: Actinopterygii
- Order: Acipenseriformes
- Family: Acipenseridae
- Genus: Acipenser
- Species: A. gueldenstaedtii
The native range for A. gueldenstaedtii is the basins of the Black, Caspian and Azov seas. This species can be found in countries such as Russia, Ukraine, Iran, Turkey, Georgia, Bulgaria, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Romania, and Turkmenistan.
A. gueldenstaedtii has a short snout with a rounded tip. The lower lip is interrupted at its center. Close to the tip of the snout (near the mouth) you can see three pairs of unfringed barbels.
The largest known specimens were well over 200 cm in length, but 110-140 cm is a much more commonly encountered size for adult A. gueldenstaedtii.