Can you eat piranha? In short, Yes!
You might not find them on the menu at your favorite restaurant, and they probably can’t be caught near where you live, but if you’re ever in a position to eat one - tuck in!
Piranha are a varied lot, and science doesn’t know that much about them. There are certainly species that haven’t been cataloged, but the ones we know range in adult size from about 5 inches to as much as 14 inches.
The red-bellied piranha is the exception, growing to as long as 20 inches!
The red-bellied piranha can grow to as long as 20 inches.
The much-feared piranha may haunt your nightmares, especially since this large family of fish is defined by its razor-sharp teeth. But the reality isn’t as fearsome as you might imagine.
The popular imagination has these small fish hunting in packs and stripping the flesh from their prey in mere seconds, but the truth is actually just the opposite: experts like Dr. Anne E. Magurran explain that piranha school to protect themselves from their own predators!
“...[T]his notion that they were fearsome fish, frightened of nothing -- we had to revise that,” she says. “They're basically like regular fish...With large teeth."
Piranha are known for a mouth full of sharp teeth.
Native to the Amazon basin, the Orinoco basin, a few rivers of the Guianas, and the Paraguay–Paraná and São Francisco River systems, these predators are infamous for stealing bait and attacking hooked fish, but they feed on everything from fish to insects to fruit throughout their life cycle.
That makes them, properly, omnivorous - which is not what we think about at all when we imagine piranha.
But when the water is low and large schools get trapped without food, these nervous, fearful fish can be dangerous. In cases like this, life-threatening attacks can happen, and people have died.
Don’t let that scare you too much, though. Most piranha attacks result in minor wounds to the hands and feet, and injuries are only serious in the rarest cases.
The consensus seems to be that they’re relatively strong flavored and fishy, but when I looked deeper, it turns out that this white-fleshed predator tastes a lot like sole, one of the world’s tastiest fish!
Piranha are often fried, grilled, or steamed, and most people who’ve eaten them find them delicious - albeit a little scary to look at with the head on.
Even on a banana leaf, these piranhas are still scary.
That goes a long way toward explaining its popularity in parts of South America, and I wouldn’t hesitate to try one (or more!) if given the chance.
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