In Love with Shrimp

I love our local shrimp. Folks of all ages flock to our island restaurants to dine on fresh seafood, and shrimp is by far the most popular. As Bubba Gump said, there are many ways to prepare shrimp. “You can barbecue it, boil it, broil it, bake it, saute it. Dey’s uh, shrimp-kabobs, shrimp creole, shrimp gumbo….” It’s not surprising that shrimp have been one of the staple food sources on the southeastern coast for centuries. It’s likely the first ones were captured in traps made from branches and Spanish moss.
Having spent most of my life on the coasts of Georgia and South Carolina, shrimp have always been a part of my life. I learned to use a cast net when I was young and over the years I have had a few great catches, but mostly I have relied on local shrimp trawlers to bring me these delicate and tasty crustaceans. There is something special about going down to the dock to see if the shrimp boats have had a successful shrimping day and buying some right off the boat for dinner. Or in a restaurant it is nice to know that the shrimp you order are local.
Actually local is a relative term as shrimp are on the move. The shrimp off the coast of St. Simons today, may end up in South Carolina or Florida in a few days. So local really means the southeast Atlantic or as we call them here, Wild Georgia Shrimp. Unfortunately the overwhelming majority of our shrimp in the US now come from farms in Ecuador, Vietnam and China. I fear that this local pleasure will soon pass.
I just heard that the shrimp dock and seafood company in the heart of Georgetown, SC is selling their land after more than 80 years and 3 residential homes will replace it. The shrimpers are now struggling to find a place to go. Sadly, this is not the first one to close. With waterfront land values rapidly increasing, the commercial vessels are losing the docking and offloading areas necessary for them to bring in their catches. Many areas that once harbored shrimp boats are now filled with recreational vessels like the Morningstar Marina on St. Simons. The old fishing docks in Charleston, SC now host cruise ships – probably serving imported shrimp!
Now you have to go to the “boondocks” to see these working shrimp trawlers. Some of my favorite fishing villages are Darien, GA, McClellanville, SC, and Shem Creek in Mt. Pleasant, SC. A few years back, I helped to facilitate the purchase of the Wando Dock on Shem Creek (pictured above) by the Town of Mount Pleasant to protect their cultural heritage and local access to shrimp.
So this Valentines Day, join me in lovin’ on some local shrimp!

Catherine McCrary

Sailor’s Valentine

+ Sailor’s Valentines are a form of sea shell art, popular in the 1800s. These belong to Toni Laird and came from Nantucket, but many were made in Barbados and brought home from the sea to loved ones.
+ Shrimp are high in selenium, an antioxidant mineral that helps inhibit growth of cancer cells, so including shrimp in your diet may lower your cancer risk.
Best Bait

It turns out we aren’t the only ones who love shrimp. I went kayak fishing with artificial lures and dead shrimp recently. Local experts like Duane Harris told me I needed to use live shrimp, but I decided it was too cumbersome to take a live bait bucket in my kayak. After several tries with no bites, I broke down and bought a tiny bucket and figured out how to secure it in the boat. Voila! The flounder, trout and redfish started biting and I enjoyed a seafood feast later in the day!

Shrimp Scampi
After tasting the mouth watering shrimp scampi at Ember, I asked Chef Nick Phelps about the dish. He assured me they use only Wild Georgia Shrimp because they are sweetened by remains of sugar cane that once grew prevalently in this area.
To prepare, first sear the shrimp in olive oil until they are cooked about half way. Add shaved shallots, crushed garlic, capers, Pinot Grigio wine, lemon juice and butter. Cook on high heat quickly for best results.


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