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Shrimp Varieties and Information

There are over 340 species of shrimp worldwide that have commercial value. Of these a select few hold importance in the US fresh seafood market.  All of which fall under warm water shrimp, fresh water shrimp and cold water shrimp.

Shrimp populations occur naturally around the world in bays and oceans. We refer to these populations as free range or wild shrimp. Then there are the farm raised varieties that are grown in hatcheries and cultivated in controlled environments. Eggs and larvae are gathered from the natural population or taken from females and grown in hatcheries. Farm raised shrimp are grown in small controlled ponds until they reach maturity.  In general farmed varieties are milder in taste and have a less firm texture than wild varieties because in the wild they feed on a variety of seaweed and crustaceans and get a work out swimming freely which gives them a stronger taste and firmer meat. A shrimp's taste is determined by its habitat and what it eats.

Warm water shrimp are by far the most plentiful and popular in America. They are categorized by their raw shell color; brown, pink, tiger and white. Rock shrimp are also warm water species and are named for their hard shells. Some warm water varieties like the tiger and white shrimp are available in nature and cultivated in hatcheries.

  • White shrimp are the most popular warm water species in America because of their sweet taste and pleasing texture. They have light gray shells which turn pink upon cooking. Their meat is also pink when cooked. White shrimp producers include America, Mexico, Ecuador and even India and China.
  • Pink shrimp are harvested from the Gulf of Mexico to Central America. Their shells are pink and very smooth to the touch. After cooking their shells turn dark pink and their meat is pearly white with pink highlights. Their meat is mildly delicious and firm.
  • Rock shrimp are caught in the deep water off of Florida's east coast and in the Gulf of Mexico. They are commonly sold naked without their shells.  Their meat is sweet and chewy and turns white with red highlights when cooked. Normally it takes 25 or more to add up to 1 pound.
  • Brown shrimp have tan shells that turn pearly when cooked and pearly white meat. They are harvested in the Gulf of Mexico and on Mexico's east and west coasts.
  • Tiger prawns are farm raised in Asian countries such as China and India. They are named for the black and white stripes that appear on their shells. Their shells turn red and meat turns white with red highlights when cooked. Their taste is mild. Because of their higher water content they tend to shrink more than other warm water varieties when cooked.

Cold water varieties are caught in northern waters like Norway, Iceland, Maine and Alaska. They are known by several names including; baby, bay, salad and tiny shrimps. The reason they are referred to as tiny is they are much smaller than warm water varieties. Their shells are red when raw and cooked. Cold water shrimp meat is white with pink highlights. They are so small it can take up to 500 just to make one pound. Small amounts of fresh cold water shrimp are available seasonably because despite their size, they take up to 5 years to reach maturity.

Fresh water shrimp are available farm raised or wild, this variety is among the largest in the world. Often called jumbo shrimp, they can weigh over 1 pound and grow over a foot in length and even have claws. Their shells are blue, unless they come from Asian countries which produce yellowish brown varieties. Their meat is gray and soft with a mild taste when cooked.

Shrimp can be served in a wide variety of ways, including shrimp scampi, shrimp salad and shrimp cocktail. Grilled shrimp and fried shrimp are common ingredients in seafood recipes, such as seafood gumbo. Coconut shrimp is also quite popular. I will be adding a wide variety of recipes to this site over time so be sure to bookmark it.

On this site you can find in-depth information about the more popular varieties of shrimp as well as preparation and buying tips.
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