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1. the ovary of a female fish filled with mature eggs
2. the testis of a male fish filled with mature sperm
3. the ripe ovary of certain crustaceans, such as the lobster
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005


Abbrev. for Royal Observatory, Edinburgh.
Collins Dictionary of Astronomy © Market House Books Ltd, 2006
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



the usual name for fish eggs. There are three types: benthic, or nonglutinous, roe, laid by the female on the bottom (fish of the salmon family); adhesive, or glutinous, roe, attached to particles on the bottom (Murmansk herring, capelin), to stones or mussels (sturgeon, bullhead), or to aquatic plants (roach, carp); and floating, or pelagic, roe (flatfish, cod, sichel, Caspian and Volga herring, and sardine). The eggs of most fish are spherical, but some are elliptical (anchovies), ranging in size in commercial fish from 0.6 mm (sardelle, plaice) to 7 mm (salmon, Siberian salmon, lancet fish). The fertility of fish varies broadly; the most fertile, the ocean sunfish, lays up to 300 million eggs.

Caviar.The roe of certain fish yields caviar after processing. There are three principal types: from the Acipenseridae (beluga, sturgeon, Caspian sturgeon, and Acipenser nudiventris ); from the Salmonidae (Siberian salmon, pink salmon, sock eye, Chinook salmon, silver salmon, and ordinary salmon); and from other fish, most commonly carp, pike-perch, pike, and Caspian roach but including mullet, striped mullet, whitefish, cod, and herring, and also the roe of the sea urchin.

Roe is found in the ovaries. To obtain caviar the fish is dressed live, since the egg membranes in dead fish deteriorate so much that they rupture. The ovaries are rubbed through a sieve screen to remove the pellicles; more rarely they are canned whole. The color of the caviar ranges from light gray to black or from orange-red to light yellow in different fish. The principal method of preparing caviar is salting, sometimes combined with pasteurization, dry curing, and pressing.

Sturgeon roe is used for black-soft, pasteurized, pressed, and ovarian caviar. High-grade soft caviar is obtained by mixing the eggs with salt: lightly salted jar caviar has added antiseptics (3–5 percent salt) and keg caviar with heavier salting (7–10 percent) has none. Soft caviar is often pasteurized. To prepare pressed caviar, the roe is salted in a saturated salt solution heated to 38°-40°C and squeezed under a press. Ovarian caviar is prepared from ovaries with immature or poor roe; salting is done in a cold saturated salt solution.

Soft caviar from salmon (red) is prepared by salting in a saturated salt solution; then vegetable oil, glycerine, and sometimes antiseptics are added, in order to prevent cohesion of the eggs. Caviar from other fish is salted in ovary form or after it has been strained through a sieve. Lightly and heavily salted strained caviar is prepared by mixing the eggs with salt and saltpeter.

Strained caviar of certain fish (carp, bream, asp, roach, pike-perch, whitefish), after light salting without saltpeter, is turned into pasteurized caviar (in hermetically sealed jars). The dry-salted roe in the ovary of the Caspian and Black Sea roaches is called tarama, and of the pike-perch, galagan. Pike and pollock roe is also sometimes salted in the ovary. Salted dry-cured ovarian caviar is prepared from mullet roe. Mature ovaries of these fish are salted in a cold saturated salt solution, air dried, and covered with wax.

Table 1. Chemical composition of roe products (in percent)
Soft caviar (jar)47-5323-2713-183-4.5
Soft caviar (keg)45-4625-2714-186-8
Pressed caviar35-4031-3714-183.5-6
Soft salmon caviar41-4630-3312-133-4.5
Strained caviar of Caspian roach and bream54-5922-283-58-12
Ovarian caviar, tarama54-5822-245-610-12
Ovarian caviar, galagan43-4525-2710-1213-15
Salted dry-cured mullet caviar14-1537-3839-433.5-4.5

The roe of the sea urchin is a delicacy with a tonic effect; it is prepared by dry salting. There are various substitutes for caviar, including synthetic “chemical” caviar. Roe products are kept at temperatures around 0°C. Caviar is rich in complete proteins, fats, and vitamins that are readily assimilated by the human body, and considerably exceeds many products, including fish flesh, in nutritional value. The chemical composition of roe products is shown in Table 1.

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.