South Carolina Crawfish? You Bet!

By:Gwen Fowler

Date:6/9/2010

When you think about South Carolina food products, crawfish might not be the first thing to pop into your mind.

But several people sell SC-raised crawfish, including James Hawthorne of Sumter. I tried my first crawfish last weekend and they were from Hawthorne’s crawfish farm.

My nephew, Dale, lived in Louisiana for a number of years, and his wife grew up there, so he’s learned a few Cajun cooking tips. From time to time, he buys crawfish from Hawthorne for a crawfish boil, which is prepared much like a Frogmore stew or Lowcountry boil. The difference is that crawfish take the place of shrimp.

He boiled the crawfish in water with crawfish seasoning, along with corn on the cob, potatoes and sausage. Then he showed me how to pull the meat out of the tail. True crawfish lovers also suck the heads to get the spicy juices out.

I called Hawthorne, who said his father started raising crawfish in the early 1980s. The Hawthornes are in the construction business and build ponds for a living, and they have about 40 acres of ponds on their land. His father was interested in all types of aquaculture and tried raising minnows, catfish and other fish.

For a while, the elder Hawthorne tried raising freshwater shrimp as part of a test Clemson University was doing.

“That’s what got him interested in crawfish,” Hawthorn said. “Freshwater shrimp is a lot of work.”

They traveled to Louisiana to do some investigation.

“At that time, no one this far north had ever raised crawfish,” he said. The folks in Louisiana told them it wouldn’t work. But they figured it was worth a try, because South Carolina and Louisiana have similar climates. They bought 500 pounds to get started and have been growing them ever since.

Hawthorne mostly raises the Louisiana Red Swamp Crawfish, with some Louisiana White River ones mixed in. You can reach him at (803) 983-2389.

Elliott’s Crawfish Farm also raises the Louisiana Red Swamp and Louisiana White River crawfish. It’s on Lake Marion in Rimini, which is between Sumter and Summerville. For information, call (803) 452-5336.

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