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I have to admit that I haven’t been the biggest fan of canned fish. I may have a tuna sandwich every one in a while, but I can’t say that anchovies or sardines make regular appearances on my shopping list. But lately I’ve learned just how much I’ve been missing by ignoring these nutritional powerhouses. Sardines in particular are a great source of lean protein, calcium, iron, vitamin D, and B12. They’re also high in omega-3 fatty acids, essential fats that help keep inflammation under control and may contribute health benefits for a variety of organ systems. In fact, the USDA’s 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans – which recommends that we eat more fish – specifically calls out sardines as a great seafood choice for their high levels of omega-3s and their low levels of methyl mercury, a marine contaminant.

In addition to being incredibly nutritious, sardines – specifically those caught in the Pacific – are also a sustainable choice for the environment.  They are, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Fish Watch, a good choice due to their large population and sustainable fishing methods with little impact to their habitat and low bycatch.

Most importantly, sardines can be prepared in myriad delicious ways. Now that I know what a wonderfully nutritious and sustainable option sardines are, you can be sure they’ll be a common sight in my shopping cart!

Before we learn about all the delicious ways you can prepare sardines, let’s find out a bit more about these fish. Did you know?

  • Canned sardines are an easy source of protein because they are shelf-stable, easy to open, and ready to eat directly out of the package – this makes them great for bag lunches, picnics, and camping trips.
  • It’s believed that sardine canning originated in France’s Brittany region. Here in the US, Cannery Row in Monterrey, CA – once made famous by John Steinbeck as a setting for two of his novels and now a bustling tourist destination – is so-called due to the presence of several now-closed sardine canneries.
  • Sardines are actually several genera of small fish found all over the globe that can grow up to 40cm in length and over 1lb in weight.
  • These fish may also be called pilchards in other countries. In some cases, the name of the fish may denote either the size or relative age of the fish, with sardine signifying a younger or smaller fish and pilchard indicating an older or larger fish.
  • The name sardine comes from the Italian island of Sardinia in the Mediterranean, where the fish were historically abundant.
  • While you may be most familiar with sardines packed in oil, they may also be packed in tomato sauce, spicy or chili sauce, or a mustard-based sauce.
  • There are a variety of culinary uses for canned or fresh sardines from cuisines around the globe, including pilchards baked into a stargazy pie from Cornwall in the UK, deep or pan-fried fresh sardines common in India’s Kerala region, grilled or steamed fresh sardines served with raki (an alcoholic beverage) in Turkey, or the national dish of Sicily, pasta con le sarde  (pasta with sardines, fennel seeds, saffron, raisins, garlic, olive oil, white wine, crushed tomatoes, and breadcrumbs).

And without further adieu here are Oldways ideas for 12 Great Ways to use Sardines!

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