A reader emailed me with this pertinent question about worms in salmon:
“I often eat raw salmon. Someone recently told me it could have worms that could enter my body. Are there really worms in salmon?” — A Concerned Salmon-Lover
And the answer is: Quite possibly, yes. A warning to sushi-lovers using raw salmon: Fish that live full or part-time in freshwater may carry tapeworm larvae, which can cause infection in humans.
To avoid contamination without cooking, be sure to freeze the fish at 0 degrees F. (-18 degrees C.) at least 24 hours in advance of consumption. If you cannot maintain 0 degrees F. in your freezer, freezing for 72 hours at 14 degrees F. (-10 degrees C.) should do the trick.
Cooking fish at a temperature of at least 135 degrees F. (57 degrees C.) for five minutes will destroy the larvae.
Why is salmon pink?
Salmon are anadromous, which means they migrate from saltwater to freshwater to lay their eggs. Freshwater salmon is salmon that became landlocked, and have less flavor than saltwater varieties. Likewise, although farm-raised salmon live in a saltwater habitat, they just don’t have the degree of rich flavor as their wild counterparts. Salmon gets that beautiful pink color from astaxanthin, a pigment within the insects and crustaceans that the fish feed upon.
Farmed salmon has cartenoids added to their food. Otherwise, the flesh would be white, which would be decidedly unappealing to consumers who have come to expect that rich coral/pink color.
Salmon Legends and Superstitions
Many Native American tribes depended heavily upon salmon in their diet, so much so that many superstitions arose around the preparation and consumption of salmon.
The Chinook tribe feared they might starve to death if the salmon disappeared, a fear probably well-based in reason. As a result, the Chinooks would remove the heart and burn it so that the spirit would not be defiled by dogs or wild animals consuming the heart and thus killing the supply. They also believed that anyone involved in the preparation of a corpse for burial might drive away the salmon, and as such, went as far as to bury the terminally ill while still alive.
An old Irish myth tells of Demne and the magical Salmon of Knowledge of the River Boyne, which promised the eater the knowledge of all things.
Early European settlers quickly got tired of a salmon-rich diet (and lobster!), with many indentured servants actually having a clause written into their contracts restricting salmon and/or lobster meals to once a week.
Cuts of Raw Salmon – Worms in Salmon Photo ©2017 Peggy Filippone