History of Caviar

Dating back 250 million years to prehistoric time, the sturgeon has been a part of the Middle Eastern and Eastern Europe diet for most man’s history. The word caviar originates from Turkish ‘Khavyar’, first appearing in English print in 1519. Ancient people believed that sturgeon caviar had medicinal qualities and it had become known at feasts in early human recorded history.

The earliest documentation on the origin of caviar has always been shrouded in mystery, although references to caviar in literature and art date back to before the the turn of the millennium. It has been suggested that by 2,400 BC, ancient Egyptians and Phoenicians had learned to salt and pickle fish eggs to make them last through war, famine or long sea-crossing voyages. Facts supporting that the ancient Egyptians knew about caviar can be seen at the bas-relief at Necropolis near the Sakkara Pyramids that portray fisherman catching fish and removing their eggs.

In Europe, it is believed caviar consumption probably started during the Middle Ages. Although not know for the qualitative aspect of their culinary tastes, Medieval English society considered sturgeon sourced caviar as “haute cuisine”. King Edward II proclaimed the sturgeon to be a “royal fish” and decreed that all sturgeon caught in England belonged to the imperial treasury and must be given to the monarch or the gentry.

It was during this time in the Middle Ages, that many country’s sovereigns claimed exclusive sturgeon and caviar rights. In Russia, Denmark, France and England most prevailing laws stated that fishermen had to offer the catch to the sovereign, often for fixed rewards. Furthermore, in Russia and Hungary, the sections of rivers considered suitable for fishing sturgeon, were subject to special royal grants.