Thursday, December 11, 2014

11/12/2014: UK organic carp farm starts production

Not only is carp a sustainable food of the future, you can even farm it in your own garden, Vicky Liddell reports in The Telegraph.  

The Eastern Europeans love it and in Hungary and Poland it is served on Christmas Eve. But for the average Briton the common carp is a stranger to our tables. All that could change with the arrival in a few weeks of the very first organic carp raised and harvested on a former trout farm in Devon.

Jimmie Hepburn, a former salmon farmer and keen ecologist and his wife Penny took over the run-down fish farm two years ago. They believe that carp - fast-growing omnivorous fish - are a sustainable answer to the world's increasing demand for seafood.

Unlike trout and salmon which require processed pellets made from wild fish, carp are virtually self-sufficient. Neither do they need huge quantities of fresh water. Apart from a daily helping of homegrown mealworms, they browse the muddy depths where a carefully managed pond ecology nurtured by cow manure provides for all their needs. 

"Carp are a bit like chickens," says Hepburn. "They eat anything.” 

They will also survive in a wide range of habitats. By the time they are harvested at about three years old, they will weigh around 0.5kg and will be a manageable plate-size.

The Hepburns are hoping to spread their carp ideas and expertise to Britain's two million garden pond-owners, encouraging them to grow their own fish for the table.

"As a nation, we are one of the biggest fishkeepers in the world," says Hepburn. 

"It's not a huge step to change the emphasis from goldfish and koi to fish for the table.”

Carp are hardy and easy to look after, and the Hepburns will soon be running courses on DIY fish-farming. 

"You can be as intensive as you like," says Hepburn.

"It would be simple enough to install a recirculation system in a garage to enable a relatively large number of carp to be reared.” 

In the Middle Ages, a carp pond was a regular feature in the gardens of large houses. It was especially useful on the many days when meat was forbidden. Then, as well as carp, there was chub, tench, perch and the unappealing lamprey (which Henry I famously overindulged in, dying from "a surfeit" of them in 1135). But after the Industrial Revolution, marine fish could be more easily transported and the carp ponds disappeared.

"I want to reconnect with the past with a new consciousness," says Hepburn. 

If all goes to plan, the domestic garden carp pond could become as ubiquitous as the backyard chicken coop.

He has also taken steps to improve the taste of the fish, often described as "muddy", by transferring the fish to natural spring water a few weeks before harvest. 

The results have been excellent and when Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall visited as part of his River Cottage: Gone Fishing programme on UK television’s Channel 4, members of a blind-tasting panel gave the creamy white-fleshed fish a comprehensive thumbs-up.

Read more HERE.

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