To be sure, the recent Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has caused consumers to think twice about the source of their seafood. While government and British Petroleum sources assure consumers that the marine life is safe to eat, many shrimpers and fisherman will tell you about their uncertain future. But, in spite of this coastal tragedy, there is one shrimper who can still muster a smile.
To call David Teichert-Coddington a shrimper might be slightly inaccurate. He is more of a farmer than a seaman. That would be because the shrimp David harvests are grown 150 miles away from the Gulf Coast.
David, along with his partners, H. R. (Rud) Schmittou and Thomas Schmittou, runs Greene Prairie Aquafarm in Boligee, Alabama. Located about 45 miles southwest of Tuscaloosa, Boligee is the site of a naturally-salinated aquifer. Brackish water is pumped up from underground to fill 17 ponds, creating about 54 surface acres of shrimp-growing space. This brackish water has been used for decades to produce channel catfish. But it was not until 2001, that Greene Prairie Aquafarm was established and became the only Alabama farm dedicated to the production of saltwater shrimp.
I recently spoke with Mr. Teichert-Coddington to get a better perspective on this unique endeavor. We talked about what it means to grow saltwater shrimp in a landlocked area. First and foremost, I wanted to know what you’d call his shrimp. A herd? A passel? A crop? Yes, a crop sounded right and he said these shrimp even have a growing season, around the first of May to the end of October. He has only recently added a greenhouse to the farm which—just like with plants and vegetables—serves to extend the growing season of the shrimp. He can start the babies earlier and hopefully raise larger shrimp. Most of the shrimp Greene Prairie grows are in the 26-30 count range. But, he hopes that the added time in the greenhouse will get more of his shrimp into the prized 21-25 count range. There’s a premium for shrimp that size.
Water in the greenhouse is run through a bio-filter which constantly cleans it. The shrimp grown at Green Prairie Aquafarm are sustainably-produced which really appeals to the majority of David’s buyers, like Whole Foods Market in Mountain Brook, which has been selling these shrimp since the store opened in February 2007.
Jason Templin, Seafood Department Team Leader for the Mountain Brook Whole Foods Market, has this to say about Greene Prairie Aquafarm, “David is so obviously passionate about what he does. He is as vertically-integrated as you can be in the business—he does everything from feeding the shrimp to harvesting to delivering the shrimp to our store. Like any farmer, he works sun-up to sun-down and then some. His crop just happens to be shrimp grown in the middle of Alabama.” Jason went on to add that with the planet’s increasing population numbers, creating new protein resources is incredibly valuable. “What David is doing is a vital part of that process.”
While Greene Prairie Aquafarm has experimented with growing other forms of marine life, including oysters and red fish or striped bass, David says they prefer to do one thing very well and will stick to growing shrimp.
The next logical question is “But how do they taste?” Greene Prairie Aquafarm shrimp are customer favorites at Whole Foods Market locally and elsewhere across the region. These crustaceans are also available at the Western and Piggly Wiggly supermarkets.
David also supplies to several local restaurants but would love to sell to more. His favorite way to eat them? “I just love to sauté them in a little butter and olive oil and add some chopped garlic. When I want some heat, I add in Cajun seasoning.”
Doesn’t sound like you need much more.
Need another recipe to try with Greene Prairie Aquafarm shrimp? Try this one:
Simple Grilled Shrimp
Serves 4, as an entrée or 6 as an appetizer
1 pound Greene Prairie Aquafarm shrimp, peeled and deveined
½ cup fresh herbs of your choice (basil, parsley, cilantro, oregano)
2 cloves garlic
zest of one lemon
juice of one lemon, at least two tablespoons
¼ cup olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
1) In the bowl of a small food processor, combine the herbs, garlic, lemon zest and lemon juice. Pulse to combine. 2) With the motor running, drizzle in the olive oil until thoroughly blended. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
3) Place shrimp in a large zip-top bag and pour marinade in. Seal to close and shake to coat. Refrigerate for 30 minutes while you preheat a grill to medium-high heat, about 350ºF.
4) Thread the shrimp onto metal skewers and cook for about 3 – 5 minutes on each side. Be careful not to overcook.
5) Serve with some freshly cooked couscous, tossed with chopped tomatoes and zucchini. Garnish with lemon wedges.
For more information or to contact David Teichert-Coddington directly, go to www.GreenePrairieAquafarm.com.
Birmingham Weekly welcomes Christiana D. Roussel. You can follow her culinary musings online at ChristianasKitchen.blogspot.com.