What is caviar?

Caviar is one of the most luxurious delicacies in the world. The many varieties of salted fish roes are being used more regularly and creatively today than ever before, with many chefs and connoisseurs feeling more inclined to experiment with the product thanks to an increase in availability.

Although humans have been eating fish eggs since prehistoric times, the word "caviar" didn't exist before the 16th century AD. Caviar, as a term to describe salted fish eggs, comes from the Turkish word khavyar which first appeared in English print in 1591.

The traditional definition of caviar is not simply "fish eggs." True caviar comes solely from fish of the Acipenseridae family, also known as sturgeon. The eggs are harvested from the female sturgeon before fertilization and then cured with salt to enhance the flavor and increase the shelf-life of the finished product. This combination of unfertilized sturgeon eggs and salt is the delicacy known as caviar.

In many countries it is considered unlawful to label any fish roe not from a sturgeon as caviar. Here in the U.S.A. however, it is common practice to label roes from salmon, trout, paddlefish, bowfin and other non-sturgeon species as "caviar", even though they are not caviar by definition.

Definition of caviar: "salted, unfertilized fish eggs from the sturgeon family (acipenseridae)"

For more information on caviar, try one of these helpful articles:

What does caviar taste like?

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What is the difference between caviar and fish roe?

How does the taste of a caviar substitute compare to real caviar?