About 40 years ago, rice farmers like Mike Frugé of Frugé Aquafarms and Cajun Crawfish figured out that the two year growing cycle of crawfish synced perfectly with the two year cycle of the rice crop. Now, rice fields are seeded with baby crawfish every other year, creating a new source of food and income for farmers. Host Daniel Geneen visited the farm in Louisiana to see how over a million crawfish are harvested each year.
“If you just came out into this field when we first planted it and just dumped crawfish out here with no cover, the birds would get them all in a matter of hours, or the heat would get them,” explains Frugé, as he and Geneen wade into the flooded rice fields, where tall grass covers the crawfish swimming in the waters below. “So the rice as a crop provides the perfect habitat for the crawfish, and that’s how they came together,” confirms Geneen.
Once the rice grows out of the canopy stage and is harvested, the fields are flooded with about two feet of water to get ready for crawfish harvesting. Once the crawfish are harvested, the fields are drained all the way down, another crop of rice is planted, and the cycle continues.
Frugé takes Geneen out into the fields to empty the crawfish traps into a manual pushboat. From there, the crawfish are added to conveyer belt where they’re washed and sorted. The small ones get sent back into the fields to grow and reproduce for the next crop, and the larger ones are sent out to customers.
Once the day’s work is done, Frugé and his brother Mark show Geneen how a true southern crawfish boil is done. Using their own custom boiler and spice mix, the crawfish, corn, and potatoes are steamed and seasoned. “It’s like the best parts of lobster and shrimp,” Geneen says, snapping the meat out of the spice-covered tail.