October is National Seafood month and, while the title of the holiday includes the word “National,” it is a fitting time to look more locally when you live in a place like Maine. Local, of course, has it various definitions that depend on how far from home you draw your circle. In Brunswick, however, there is plenty of seafood that is harvested very close by. 

There has been some discussion of late about the Maine state flag and which components are featured on it – and some about the Brunswick flag as well. But the original flag for our town has a clammer on it. That’s because digging for shellfish has been a tradition here for generations. That would be where to draw the smallest of circles in that you can slog out not too far from shore and dig up delicious clams from the intertidal mud. Digging for clams is something everyone ought to try – if only to appreciate what hard work it is. Most of the time, I leave it up to the diggers in town and look for their harvest at local seafood markets. Soft shell and hard-shell clams are both delicious.

If you draw your circle just a little bigger, you can find lobster and crab traps even far up into some of the shallower bays. Crabs can be a bit trickier to purchase and prepare if you buy them whole but, again, you should try it once to see why picked crab meat is so expensive. Lobster fortunately yields a bit more meat per animal given its large tail. Both lobsters and crabs can be purchased locally as well. Places like Moody’s Seafood on Bath Road and Casco Bay Shellfish on Thomas Point Road are great places to find shellfish like clams, crabs and lobster.

Going just a bit further out, you can find boats heading out to catch a variety of finfish species. Cundy’s Harbor and Lookout Point in Harpswell are a couple of places to see some of these boats. Groundfish boats fish for a suite of species including pollock, hake, haddock, cod, monkfish and several types of flounder. There are many types of boats fishing for different species, but for the purposes of Seafood Month, I opted to focus on those most likely to make it to your plate. You can find some of this local catch at places like Gurnet Trading Company off Route 24 and Cantrell’s Seafood in Topsham. 

When trying to discern what is local and what is not, the best place to start is to ask your seafood purveyor. They can often tell you at least whether the species you’d like was caught in Maine. You can also do a little research into what is in season to rule out some obvious options that don’t come from Maine at certain times of year. Maine Sea Grant has a great chart showing what is in season at seagrant.umaine.edu/wp-content/uploads/sites/467/2020/10/SeafoodChart.pdf. I don’t mean to discourage people from eating seafood from out of state, but instead to encourage you to eat local when you can. October is a great time to do that also, as many fisheries are at their peak and there is a wide variety available.

For me, National Seafood Month is an excuse to try something new. “So, it’s something weird, then,” was my daughter’s response when I told her we were having fish cakes for dinner – and added that they were made with hake. She is pretty used to me putting novel seafood options on the table, but this didn’t seem so far-fetched. Hake isn’t the most common fish option, but it is delicious – and my daughter finished off every bit. I was inspired to make this recipe after my colleague at Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association, Ben Martens, made these cakes in a Facebook Live cooking demo for Now You’re Cooking in Bath. The video and recipe are here: acooksemporium.com/recipes/fish-cakes-with-maine-coast-fishermens-association/

Seafood Month is also an excuse to introduce someone you know to Maine’s great seafood. I recently had the opportunity to fly with fish. It was my dad’s birthday, and his favorite seafood is halibut. I picked some up, packed it in a little cooler full of ice packs and tucked it in my backpack. If I had timed things better, I could have gotten it straight from a boat I met up with in Portland last week who had just landed halibut the day before. Regardless, it made me truly appreciate what we have in Maine to bring such a treasured fish 1,100 miles to St. Louis. 

If you are looking for good seafood ideas to cook this month, there are a number of places online where you can find recipes for local catch. SoPo Seafood, a purveyor in South Portland that just opened a retail shop in the Knightsville neighborhood, has a page full of recipes (soposeafood.com/blogs/recipes) as well. You can also ask at your local seafood shop what they would recommend and how to prepare it. Whatever you choose, enjoy eating something delicious this month in celebration of National Seafood Month.

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