Throughout much of North America, crawfish are a unique food. Resembling small lobsters, these freshwater crustaceans are also known as crayfish, crawdads, and other names. Crawfish are especially popular in Cajun cuisine and have become common in many other cooking genres.
In some areas, crawfish are available locally, either live or fresh cooked. Cooked whole crawfish are often packaged and shipped retail markets. Peeled, frozen crawfish tails are also available. Their brilliant color, unique appearance, and historical significance make them a favorite among chefs.
The majority of North American crawfish come from Louisiana, where annual production often exceeds 100 million pounds. The bulk of the state's crawfish come from aquaculture operations. Commercial harvests of wild crawfish also occur in Louisiana on a much smaller scale.
Crawfish are often sorted and marketed by counts (number per pound):
Jumbo - 15 or less
Large - 16-20
Medium - 21-25
Peeler - 26 or more
In addition to commercially marketed products, crawfish are sometimes harvested recreationally. Depending on local conditions, harvesters may choose to catch crawfish by hand or with special traps. After a productive outing of crawfishing, enthusiasts often celebrate with a pot of freshly boiled crawfish and other summertime foods.