Sardines are richly flavored and mineral-laden little fish. They are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids and iron. Plus, since they are so low on the food chain (they eat plants, not other fish), sardines don't have the mercury and other toxic load of some seafood. In short, they are a delicious, safe, sustainable, healthful seafood option that is all too often overlooked.
Pacific sardines are caught along the West Coast of North America, between Baja and Alaska, and are a well-managed fishery. Atlantic sardines, however, are woefully over-fished and should be avoided. What to do when fish are simply labelled "sardines"? Ask where they were caught.
When buying fresh sardines, look for whole fish with bright eyes, shiny skin, a mild fishy aroma, and smooth, flat bellies (no bloating). Canned sardines are an excellent option, too (remember, look for wild-caught Pacific sardines on the label).
Cleaning fresh sardines is a snap. Simply make a cut down the belly and rinse out the minimal viscera in cool running water. Fresh sardines are now ready to make Homemade Cured Sardines, Grilled Sardines, or Baked Sardines.
Canned sardines are a fabulous cupboard staple that can make quick work on dinner. Sardines on crackers and a light smear of mustard is a great snack. Or used canned sardines to make Sardine Olive Pasta for a healthful, satisfying dinner.