Kaluga is a caviar variety harvested from the eponymous river sturgeon, officially named Huso dauricus, which is native to the Amur River basin. Due to overfishing, kaluga is a critically endangered species, and the fish used for harvesting caviar is now mostly farm-raised.
Kaluga beads are usually firm and large. Their color may range from gray to olive green or brown, while the flavor is distinctively buttery. Kaluga caviar is very similar to the famed beluga variety, and both the fish and the kaluga caviar are often wrongly labeled as river beluga.
This caviar is often enjoyed on its own, and it should always be served well-chilled. It is also paired with blini, sour cream, or crème fraiche. It should be noted that China created a Kaluga hybrid (Huso dauricus X Acipenser schrenkii), which is also used to harvest caviar.
By the 1990s, the number of sturgeons significantly declined, mostly due to overfishing and pollution. Several countries now ban the sales of wild caviar for various environmental and political reasons. At the same time, aqua farms became the future of caviar trade.
Sustainable and ethical farms are now the most reliable places to buy caviar. Their caviar is more consistent since the sturgeons are fed a controlled diet. This has also influenced the price, and caviar has become more accessible. Caviar trade now does not depend on the location, and the focus has been shifted to the type of sturgeon—which should always be clearly labeled—and ethical and sustainable harvesting methods.