Herring are relatively small
oily fish of the genus Clupea
found in the shallow, temperate waters of the North Pacific and the North Atlantic oceans,
including the Baltic
Two species of Clupea
currently recognized, the Atlantic
) and the Pacific herring
each of which may be divided into subspecies. Herrings are forage fish
which move in vast schools
, coming in spring to the
shores of Europe
, where they are caught, salted and
smoked in great quantities. Canned "sardines
" (or pilchards
seen in supermarkets
may actually be
or round herrings.
All of the 200 species in the family Clupeidae
share similar distinguishing features.
They are silvery colored fish that have a single dorsal fin
. Unlike most other fish, they have
soft dorsal fins that lack spines, though some species have pointed
scales that form a serrated keel
. They have no
and have a protruding
lower jaw. Their overall size varies from species to species: the
Baltic herring is small, usually about 14 to 18 centimeters in
length, the Atlantic herring can grow to about 46 cm (18
inches) in length and weigh up to 1.5 pound
(680 g), and Pacific herring
grow to about 38 cm (15
of adult herring include seabirds
, and humans
, dog fish
and other large fish also feed on adult
herring. Many of these animals also prey on juvenile herring.
See Atlantic herring for videos
of feeding juvenile herring, catching copepods.
Young herring feed on phytoplankton
and as they mature they start to consume larger organisms. Adult
herring feed on zooplankton
animals that are found in oceanic surface waters
, and small fish and fish larvae.
and other tiny crustaceans
are the most common zooplankton eaten
by herring. During daylight
herring stay in
the safety of deep water, feeding at the surface only at night when
there is less chance of predation. They swim along with their
mouths open, filtering the plankton
the water as it passes through their gills.
Commercial herring catch
Herring are an important economic fish. Adult fish are harvested
for their meat and eggs. In Southeast Alaska herring is
sold as baitfish. Environmental Defense
) as one of the more environmentally responsible fish
Herring has been a known staple food
source since 3000 B.C. There are numerous ways the fish is served
and many regional recipes: eaten raw, fermented, pickled
, or cured by other techniques. The fish was
sometimes known as "two-eyed steak".
Herring are very high in long-chain Omega-3 fatty acids
. They are a source of vitamin
Large Baltic herring slightly exceeds recommended limits with
respect to PCB
. Nevertheless, the
health benefits from the fatty acids are more important than the
risk from dioxin; their cancer-reducing effect is statistically
stronger than the cancer-causing effect of PCBs and dioxins. The
contaminant levels depend on the age of the fish which can be
inferred from their size. Baltic herrings larger than 17 cm
may be eaten twice a month, while herrings smaller than 17 cm
can be eaten freely.
Pickled herring is a popular delicacy in Europe, and has become a
basic part of both Jewish
cuisine. Most cured herring uses a two-step curing process.
Initially, herring is cured with salt to extract water. The second
stage involves removing the salt and adding flavorings, typically a
vinegar, salt, sugar solution to which ingredients like peppercorn,
bay leaves and raw onions are added.
In Scandinavia, once the pickling process is finished and depending
on which of the dozens of classic herring flavourings (mustard,
onion, garlic, lingonberries etc.) are selected, it is usually
enjoyed with dark rye bread, crisp bread, sour cream, or potatoes.
This dish is a must at Christmas
, where it is enjoyed with
In the Middle Ages the Dutch
a special treat known in English as soused herring
Pickled herring is common in Russian
, where it can be served as simple as just cut into
pieces seasoned with sunflower oil and onions
or can be part of herring salads
, which are
usually prepared with vegetables
seasoned with mayonnaise
Pickled herrings are also common in Ashkenazi Jewish
cuisine, perhaps best known
salad known in English simply as "chopped
herring". In Poland it is known as "Sledzie".
herring can also be found in the cuisine of Hokkaidō in Japan, where
families traditionally preserved large quantities for
The word Rollmops
, borrowed from German
, refers to a pickled
rolled (hence the name) into a cylindrical
shape around a piece of
or an onion
In Sweden, Baltic herring is fermented to make surströmming
A typical Dutch delicacy is Hollandse
, which is raw herring from the catches around the
end of spring and the beginning of summer. This is typically eaten
with raw onions
. Hollandse nieuwe is only
available in spring when the first seasonal catch of herring is
brought in. This is celebrated in festivals such as the Vlaardingen Herring Festival and Vlaggetjesdag in Scheveningen.
The new herring are frozen
and enzyme-preserved for the remainder of the year. The first
barrel of Hollandse Nieuwe is traditionally sold at auction for
charity; in 2009, the € 66,000 paid for that first barrel was
donated to Stichting Kinderpostzegels Nederland
, a Dutch
Herring is also canned
and exported by many
countries. A sild is an immature herring that
is canned as sardines in Iceland, Sweden,
Norway or Denmark.
Very young herring are called whitebait
and are eaten whole as a delicacy.
Dutch street-side herring stall
In Scotland the herring is traditionally filleted and after being
coated in seasoned pin-head oatmeal is fried in a pan with butter
or oil. This dish is usually served with "crushed" buttered boiled
is a split and smoked
herring, a bloater
is a whole smoked herring
and a buckling
is a hot smoked
herring with the guts removed. All are staples of British cuisine
. According to George Orwell
in The Road to Wigan Pier
Emperor Charles V
erected a statue to the inventor of bloaters.
Northfield, Minnesota, kippered herring is a popular pizza
Smoked herring is a traditional meal on the Danish island in the
Baltic Sea, Bornholm. In Scandinavia, herring soup
is also a traditional dish.
Southeast Alaska, western hemlock boughs are cut and placed in
the ocean before the herring arrive to spawn.
herring eggs stick to the boughs,
and are easily collected. After being boiled briefly the eggs are
removed from the bough. Herring eggs collected in this way are
eaten plain or in herring egg salad
method of collection is part of Tlingit
- Cardiovascular Benefits Of Omega-3 Fatty Acids
- Risks and benefits are clarified by food risk
assessment - Finnish Food Safety Authority Evira
- Dietary advice on fish consumption - Finnish Food
Safety Authority Evira
- Russian Layered Herring Salad - Seld' pod
- O'Clair, Rita M. and O'Clair, Charles E., "Pacific herring,"
Southeast Alaska's Rocky Shores: Animals. pg. 343-346.
Plant Press: Auke Bay, Alaska (1998). ISBN 0-9664245-0-6