Queen Conch - Queen Of The Sea
If you had to choose a single food to embody the uniqueness of Caribbean islands, it would be conch.
Here is how conch meat looks like.
Queen Conch (Strombus Gigas) is a pink spiral shaped shell called “lambi” in Caribbean. Conch meat was a tropical food source for thousands of years. Columbus sailors ate conch boiled in salt water. Later on, conch was dried and last up to one week at sea. Today freezing is the most common way of exporting the meat to markets outside of the islands.
Increasing demands of consumption of queen conch, along with foolish over-harvesting practices on some islands reduced the conch population to an estimated 10% of its number in the early 1900. In some areas it is considered endangered species and capturing conch is banned until such time as the stock returns.
Therefore, a lot of conch breeding farms had been built in Turks and Caicos, Bonaire and Venezuela. A queen conch reaches adulthood in about four years and can live to be 20. Conch eggs are smaller than a grain of sand. From the day an egg hatches, it begins to grow its shell. In the larval stage the baby conch swim by means of hairs surrounding their bodies. After 3 weeks they sink and hide in the sand, and begin a metamorphosis for about one year. After one year they start their life eating algae and moving around by pulling itself along on its operculum or black claw.
You will find fresh conch in Florida Keys and Caribbean islands, in USA and other parts of the world it is most likely found cleaned and frozen. Freezing queen conch is actually beneficial for preparation because it tenderizes the meat, which can be rubbery and chewy if not prepared correctly.
More info on this subject in this video. Enjoy!