1902 Encyclopedia > Anchovy


Anchovy (Engraulis, Cuv.), a family of small fishes akin to the shad and the sprat, all three being of the Clupeidae, or Herring tribe. There are six or seven species of anchovy found in the seas of Europe, of tropical America, and of India. Of these the most important and the largest is the common anchovy, Engraulis encrasicholus, so called from the bitter taste of its head, and the ancient belief that its bile was in that part. From the days of the Greeks and Romans it has been esteemed for its delicate and unique flavour; anchovy sauce is referred to under the name of garum in Horace, Sat. ii. 8, 46. The common anchovy is from five to seven inches long, and resembles the sprat and the sardine. Its distinguishing peculiarities are a short anal fin, the dorsal fin right over the ventral, a long sharp head with projecting upper jaw and mouth cleft behind the eyes, the colour rich bluish green on the back and silvery white on the belly, and large loose silvery scales. Anchovies are abundant on the coasts of Britain, but the markets are supplied chiefly from the Mediterranean fisheries, the best qualities coming from Gorgona, a small island near Leghorn. They leave the Atlantic depths, and come in shoals to the coasts of Spain, Portugal, France and Italy, to deposit their spawn during the months of May, June, and July. Like herring they are caught with nets at night, being allured around the fishing-boats by fires kept burning at the stern. They are "headed," "gutted," pickled, and packed for exportation in barrels of five to twenty pounds, being repacked when brought to this country, and bottled up for use. Some relish them raw from the brine in which they are pickled; but they are commonly used in the shape of sauce or paste -- a little vinegar, which dissolves the whole fish, including the bones, being used to produce the necessary consistence.

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