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Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

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aquaculture is the farming of fish and shellfish. Its antecedents lie in the measures taken by many cultures to breed, rear, fatten, or maintain any number of fish species so they might be consumed in the best possible condition. Examples are too many to list but should include mention at least of pioneering fish farming in early China, where freshwater fish such as carp and mullet (see grey mullet) have always been widely kept in ponds and where salt-water fish are often kept alive in well-smacks—hulks with net bottoms—so that they are of the freshest when cooked. Then, in ancient Rome, fish were kept alive in sea enclosures, or fattened, even spawned and farmed artificially, in ponds. The friend of Emperor Augustus, Publius Vedius Pollio, kept moray eels in his ponds, and fed recalcitrant slaves to them. What worked for Rome was equally effective in post-classical Europe. The stewponds of medieval monasteries and Georgian country houses; the tanks, ponds, and reservoirs that bred, fed, and fattened the freshwater fish so enjoyed in E. Europe; the tidal pools and the vessels equipped with wells which were used to keep sea fish in prime condition were all commonplace. And the culture of bivalves, mussels and oysters in particular, was well advanced by the 19th century.