January 2012. Louisiana – Crawfish and Rice. That’s Nice.

Posted on January 13, 2012

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Nobody eats more rice, and more crawfish, than the people of Louisiana.   Rice is everywhere – on the menu and in the fields.  And crawfish – what Yankees call “crayfish” – are almost an obsession here.

Rice dressing is stuffed in turkeys and pork roasts. You’ll find rice in boudin balls, rice in smoked sausages, rice in etouffee, jambalaya, stews and soups; mounds of rice served with gumbo.  You’ll find broccoli and rice casserole, eggplant and rice, dirty rice, shrimp and rice, red beans and rice, and more desserts made from rice than you can imagine.

Makes sense, since Louisiana is the third largest producer of rice in the United States.  Louisiana farmers grow rice nearly 400,000 acres each year, providing thousands of jobs.

Now, the crawfish is just as important to Louisiana’s economy – and culture – as rice.

Louisianans catch them.  They raise them.  They eat as many of them as they possibly can.  They sing about them.  They appear on clothing, dishes, billboards, travel cups and can koozies.   Many make their livelihood from them.  They are an integral part of Cajun culture, having been caught, raised, cooked and eaten in Louisiana for hundreds of years.  Most of Louisiana crawfish are consumed in Louisiana, though they are also exported to some surprising place – like Sweden.

It turns out not only do rice and crawfish partner up really well in cooking, they make good agricultural production partners, too.  And, says a Louisiana web site, over 1,600 farmers raise them today, mostly as a companion crop to rice.

Rice is planted, just like any other grain, into dry ground.  Once shoots emerge, the fields are flooded.  Crawfish are then planted in the water, where they reproduce. When the rice is about ready to harvest the fields are drained and the crawfish burrow into the mud.  After harvesting, the fields are flooded again, and crawfish traps are set out.  After sufficient numbers of “mud bugs” have crawled in, the traps are pulled up and dumped into a uniquely designed boat using a revolving wheel with cleats on it for propulsion, rather than an outboard motor with a propeller.

After the crawfish are harvested, the field is drained, disked, replanted and the cycle begins all over again.

It’s a cycle that works for Louisiana’s economy and culture.  And, after you’ve tasted real Louisiana crawfish-and-rice Cajun cooking, it will work for you, too.

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