Next week starts Shark Week on the Discovery Channel! I am so excited. It’s one magnificent week filled with specials about these razor toothed predators of the oceans. NatGeo had Sharkfest for a couple weeks and I watched it too. These days, with streaming services, I can get sharks anytime I am in the mood and it’s glorious! I am a total shark nerd and have always had a fascination with these misunderstood powerhouses of the deep. The Great White is my favorite but I have already discussed it in my column a couple years ago. This year, I want to discuss one of the most dangerous.
The tiger shark is an aggressive ground shark that gets its name from the dark stripes down its body, which resemble a tiger’s pattern, but fade as the shark matures. It is typically about 13 feet in length but can reach lengths over 16 feet. The females are larger than males typically topping out about 2,000lbs. Although, one pregnant female measure off the coast of Australia measured over 18ft and 3,300lbs! The tiger shark is a solitary, mostly nocturnal hunter. Tiger shark teeth are unique with very sharp, pronounced serrations and an unmistakable sideways-pointing tip. Such teeth have developed to slice through flesh, bone, and other tough substances such as turtle shells. Relative to the shark’s size, tiger shark teeth are considerably shorter than those of a great white shark, but they are nearly as broad at the root and are arguably better suited to slicing through hard-surfaced prey.
Tiger sharks are known as the garbage disposal of the ocean. Often when these sharks are found deceased, the stomachs contain totally inedible things such as tires, license plates, plastics and even baseballs. Their diet is also the most varied of all sharks. They will eat anything from birds and snakes to seals and sea lions, from jellyfish to mollusks to sea turtles, and, along coastal towns, even horses, cats, dogs and rats are on the menu. Basically, if they chomp down on it, they are going to eat it.
In the oceans, only larger sharks and orcas pose a threat to the tiger shark. Even so, they are a near threatened species due to human activity. There are several reasons for this. Some sharks tangle in fishing nets and die as a result. Some are killed for sport, for the thrill of the hunt. Some are killed due to human fear. Movies like Jaws terrified the public and caused irrational fears that resulted in hundreds of thousands of sharks of all species being killed for no reason. Too many attacks in one area often causes mass hysteria and the result is often shark culls (where they kill every shark they see indiscriminately). The saddest reason though is commercialism. Sharks are killed for their teeth and jaws which are sold worldwide. Some cultures eat shark fin soup or eat shark liver as a delicacy. Often, the shark’s fins are removed whether the shark is dead or alive and the rest of the shark is discarded creating tons of waste and decimating the numbers of sharks in the ocean. While this is falling out of favor due to public backlash against shark finning, it still happens in alarming numbers.
Fun Facts: Female tiger sharks have anywhere from 10 to 82 embryos and give birth to an average of 30 to 35 pups per litter. Not many will survive though as juvenile tiger sharks are often eaten by adult tiger sharks.
Tiger sharks will not leave in the face of a hurricane. In fact, after Hurricane Irma, even more tiger sharks were seen in the waters than normal in the aftermath of the storm. It is believed they stick around to eat whatever washes in from the storm.
It is the only species of requiem shark with suction holes. These holes, or spiraculi, are situated behind the eyes. They help to oxygenate blood in vessels that lead directly to the eyes and brain. This allows them to breathe without having to move.
Sharks are powerful predators but are so misunderstood. Discovery and NatGeo Channels are trying to help save the sharks by providing understanding. The public is starting to come around and more and more people are becoming advocates, even some shark attack victims. Plan on watching some sharks next week and meet me in the kitchen for fun Shark Week snacks!
— Shark Bait Snack Mix
1 bag microwave popcorn – any will work except heavy butter 16oz white chocolate, divided, more or less to taste ½ cup cake mix – I used vanilla, but use flavor of your choice 1½ cups pretzel fish crackers 10-15 freeze dried strawberries, more or less to tasted Blue sprinkles Blue and black gel food colors Gummy sharks and gummy fish Line baking sheet with parchment paper. Melt 12oz chocolate in melting pot or double broiler, stirring frequently. Add cake mix to chocolate. Pop popcorn according to package directions. Place popcorn and fish in large bowl. Pour melted chocolate over popcorn and pretzels and mix well. Spread on prepared baking sheet. Add sprinkles to taste. Take strawberries and crush with hand to create powder and sprinkle over popcorn. (This gives you red for blood.) Melt 2-3oz chocolate. Add blue food gel and stir to mix. Drizzle over popcorn. Melt 2-3oz chocolate. Add 1-3 drops black food coloring (you want a grey so start with one and slowly add more to get the color you want) and stir to mix. Drizzle over popcorn. Add gummy fish and sharks to taste. Store in air tight container.
— Shark Fin Cookie Cups Cookie
1 yellow cake mix ½ cup vegetable oil 2 eggs 1 cup chocolate chips Frosting
2 cups heavy whipping cream 4 Tbsps. powdered sugar 1-3 drops blue gel food color Shark Fins
6oz white chocolate Black gel food color Blue sprinkles for topping if desired Line baking sheet with parchment paper. Melt 4oz chocolate in melting pot or double broiler, stirring frequently. Add 1-3 drops black food color to get the color grey as dark as you want. Using spoon or knife or wooden skewer, form shark fins using melted chocolate. I free handed my fins but if you are unsure, just find and print a fin template. Place it under the parchment paper and then fill in outline. Set aside or refrigerate until solid and ready for use. Preheat oven to 375°F. Place muffin liners in muffin tin or spray tin liberally with cooking spray and set aside. In large bowl, mix cake mix, oil and eggs. Mix until combined. Stir in chocolate chips. Scoop about 1.5-2 Tbsps. cookie dough into muffin cups. Bake 15-18 minutes or until just slightly turning brown. Remove from oven and wait 3 minutes. Using back of small measuring cup or shot glass, lightly press into top of each cup creating an indention in the middle. Let sit in pan 10 minutes. Remove to wire racks to cool completely. In large clean bowl, whip together heavy cream and powdered sugar until stiff peaks form. Add food color and lightly mix until desired color is reached. (I left it barely mixed so it would have streaks.) Spoon or pipe whipped topping into each cup and top with sprinkles and add a shark fin to each one. So fun!
— Shark Attack Cheesecake Cups
Crushed Nilla wafers or graham crackers Cheesecake
2 8oz pkgs. cream cheese, softened ⅔ cup sugar 2 tsps. pure vanilla extract 1 8oz tub Cool Whip, thawed Strawberry cake or pie filling (or other red colored filling, like raspberry or cherry) Topping
2 cups heavy whipping cream 4 Tbsps. powdered sugar 1-3 drops blue gel food color Shark Fins
6oz white chocolate Black gel food color Line baking sheet with parchment paper. Melt 4oz chocolate in melting pot or double broiler, stirring frequently. Add 1-3 drops black food color to get the color grey as dark as you want. Using spoon or knife or wooden skewer, form shark fins using melted chocolate. I free handed my fins but if you are unsure, just find and print a fin template. Place it under the parchment paper and then fill in outline. Set aside or refrigerate until solid and ready for use. Place cream cheese and sugar in large mixing bowl and beat until smooth, 3-5 minutes. Add vanilla and beat. Gently fold in tub of Cool Whip until incorporated. In individual serving cups, place 3 Tbsps. crushed cookies in bottom of each cup. I used 8 cups. Layer cheesecake filling in each cup. Top with strawberry filling. For added fun, add gummy fish to the filling! In large clean bowl, whip together heavy cream and powdered sugar until stiff peaks form. Add food color and lightly mix until desired color is reached. (I left it barely mixed so it would have streaks.) Spoon or pipe whipped topping into each cup and top with sprinkles and add a shark fin to each one. Store any leftovers covered in fridge.
— No Churn Shark Ice Cream
14oz can sweetened condensed milk 2 tsps. pure vanilla extract Pinch salt 2 cups heavy whipping cream 1 tsp. blue food color, more or less for desired color Assorted blue and green sprinkles, plus more for serving Gummy sharks and fish for garnish Freeze a 9×5” metal loaf pan until chilled, about an hour. Whisk together condensed milk, vanilla and salt in medium bowl. Transfer half to another medium bowl and stir in blue food coloring in one bowl. Set aside. Whip cream in large bowl with electric mixer on high speed until firm peaks form, about 3-5 minutes. Add 1/2 cup of whipped cream to each bowl of condensed milk mixture and fold with separate rubber spatulas until combined. Divide remaining whipped cream evenly between bowls and fold to combine. Use separate large spoons to drop scoops of each mixture into chilled loaf pan, alternating between colors. Drag long wooden spoon handle through mixture to swirl colors, making sure spoon reaches bottom of pan. Top with candies. Cover and freeze until solid and scoopable, at least 5 hours and up to overnight. Scoop ice cream into serving dishes or cones and top with more candies and shark gummies before serving.
Recipe adapted from foodnetwork.com.