Alaskan Salmon - buy it fresh and buy sustainable!

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Wild Alaskan Salmon & Avocado Salad

July 27, 2009

Alaskan salmon and avocado salad

By John Bowler

I'm a seafood guy, so I really look forward to wild Alaskan salmon season every year. May through October is the prime time for a variety of these healthy, versatile and delicious fish. And the best part about salmon is that it’s quick and easy to grill, bake, broil, poach or sauté, so it’s perfect for both amateur cooks and experienced chefs. The rich and varied diet of wild Alaskan salmon give these fish an extra layer of fat that contains heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids and also makes for a buttery texture.

Freshness is the key to buying any seafood, especially salmon. At Whole Foods Market, we actually have a seafood team member, Keith Harris, who moves to Anchorage, Alaska, from May to October to be our port seafood buyer. He’s in touch with fishermen and producers all summer, getting the best quality wild Alaskan salmon and halibut for not only our stores in the Southeast but for our stores throughout the country. Keith’s presence at the source also allows selective purchasing from fishermen who use best practices like intentionally short fishing trips that result in limited catches of peak-quality salmon.

Keith makes the calls on the docks, selects the best quality salmon, and gets it iced and shipped to Atlanta within 48 hours, which is extremely rare in the supermarket industry. We have a seafood distribution facility here in Georgia where the product is inspected, graded, re-iced and ready for our expert cutters to process and ship to 18 stores in our region.

Wild salmon season opens with the traditional Copper River run in mid-May, with both king and sockeye as the catch. King salmon is known for its fatty, rich flavor. Sockeye is typically known for its bright red, extra firm texture and unique flavor. These two species run hand in hand with various areas of catch running all around the Alaskan coast from Norton Sound in northwest Alaska, all the way around to Ketchikan on the far southeastern coast near British Columbia.

By August, we start seeing fresh coho, the mildest of the “Big Three.” Coho and king salmon run together through September into October.  Whole Foods Markets offers an annual September feature of troll-caught coho salmon from Yakutat in southeast Alaska, just west of the Alaska capital of Juneau, as a culmination of this run. Troll-caught salmon are simply caught using only a hook and a line, which is the most sustainable method of fishing. If you can’t find troll-caught, you can always look for the blue and white Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) seal on seafood, which ensures that the fish was caught responsibly and that populations will not be depleted.

One of my favorite ways to prepare salmon is this simple salmon avocado salad. This easy and quick salad is a great way to use leftover cooked salmon. You can serve a spoonful atop a green salad with crisp bread or large whole grain crackers on the side.

John Bowler is the seafood monger for Whole Foods Market's Southern region. For more wild Alaskan salmon recipes, visit

Please click here for the Wild Alaskan Salmon and Avocado Salad

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