For generations, eastern NC fishermen and their families have eaten shad roe in the springtime. Spring is the time of year when the Shad fish “run.” The Shad do not literally grow legs and run but it is a “run” when the Shad fish (a member of the Herring family) come in from the ocean and lay their eggs in the freshwater estuaries of the North Carolina sounds. Most people in the Piedmont or Mountains of North Carolina have not prepared nor tasted Shad roe before. Since Shad roe is limited to a couple weeks of the year, here in Raleigh we are fortunate to have Locals Seafood, who sources and sells this specialty product!

I teach organic gardening, canning, fermentation, dehydration and food preservation workshops at THE GARDENER’S KITCHEN. Learning and teaching new methods of traditional food preservation and storage for locally available food is very exciting to me! Due to its limited availability (and my year-long craving for it!) I made a discovery of a way to preserve the roe for use throughout the year until the next run the following year: Bottarga!

If you have not heard of or tasted Bottarga before, I encourage you to consider making it this year and use our native NC shad roe or other NC fish roe as recommended by Lin Peterson at LOCALS SEAFOOD.

Making Bottarga is easy and provides a delicious and nutritious food made from local products from our NC coast.

Bottarga is salted, pressed (sometimes) and dried fish roe used primarily in Mediterranean cuisine and traditionally made of tuna or grey mullet roe. It has a definitive taste of the sea, so it is used sparingly. However, if you love the taste of anchovies in Caesar salad dressing or on pizza or smoked fish you will absolutely love Bottarga!

My favorite way to enjoy Bottarga is how they serve it traditionally in Italy – grated or thinly sliced over pasta with a garlic and olive oil sauce. To add some diversity to the pasta dish, add some lemon, tomato, celery to the sauce and purchase a bottle or two of Vermentino or un-oaked Chenin Blanc wine and thanks to the NC fishermen you will have a little piece of Sardinia right in your home!

I am convinced this would be a fantastic new product for some adventurous North Carolinian to produce and market. Check out the online prices of Bottarga from Italy! The shad roe Bottarga I made was wonderful and very easy to produce at home and much more reasonably priced. That’s why I always say local food is the best food in my book!

Below are my two favorite links for making fish roe into Bottarga and for cooking with Bottarga.

How to Make Bottarga

Mario Batali – Bottarga and Pasta Recipe

If you wish to cook the Shad roe in the traditional manner and not make Bottarga, check out this recipe and article from NPR called Cooking with Fresh Roe: A Rite of Spring


Fresh Shad Roe ( Red color) and Sea Bass Roe from Locals Seafood

Shad and Sea Bass Bottarga - salted and dried Roe