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Invasion of the jellyfish: Is it time to get frying?

Mauve stinger jellyfishImage copyright
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The edible mauve stinger, Pelagia noctiluca, is present in all the world’s heat and temperate oceans

Jellyfish numbers have been growing quickly in the Mediterranean and one species that has lengthy been a hazard for bathers there – the mauve stinger – is more and more being seen round the British Isles. Now one marine biologist says if we won’t beat them we must always eat them.

I am hovering in a makeshift kitchen, watching one of Italy’s most outstanding marine biologists gleefully enjoying chef. Prof Silvio Greco is concentrated on the effervescent contents of a big pot.

Dressed up for the half in chef’s whites, conventional hat and crimson apron, the sustainable conservation skilled is ideal for the position.

“In this water I’ve put lemon juice and vinegar. After boiling for a couple of minutes I’ll plunge it into this ice,” he gestures, explaining how the scorching water each sterilises, getting rid of micro organism, and destroys the stinging poison.

What for some could be meals hell has acquired my tastebuds leaping with curious pleasure: we’re about to eat jellyfish. For Greco, it’s not the first time.

“I like seafood,” he beams. “Jellyfish remind me of oysters. When you eat them you expertise an explosion of the sea in your tongue. They are, in spite of everything, 90% seawater.”

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Alessandro Vargiu / Archivio Slow Food

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Professor Greco swaps his laboratory for the kitchen as he cooks jellyfish

Today he is enlisted the skilled assist of restaurant chef Marco Visciola, who confesses he is by no means cooked jellyfish earlier than. He’s going to fry it in a tempura batter made of potato, wheat and rice flours, blended with glowing water. “No salt?” I ask. “Zero,” he tells me. “The jellyfish already has the salty flavour of the sea, so to convey out its flavour I’ve left the batter impartial.”

This is not some perverse chef’s problem, however half of a marketing campaign that Greco is selling at the Slow Fish pageant. Held each two years at Genoa’s porto antico the occasion encourages sustainable fishing and accountable consumption. There are at the very least 4 instances as many jellyfish in the Mediterranean now as there have been in 2004, with world local weather change, air pollution, and overfishing principally to blame. And the message this cooking demo is sending out is: if you cannot defeat them, eat them.

“The sea is full of them and it’s a giant drawback for biodiversity,” says Silvio Greco, describing jellyfish as rampant, opportunistic species that instantly take over any empty house in the water. He explains how their unfold is devastating marine meals chains and ecosystems, and the way unlawful fishing of pure jellyfish predators like tuna and turtles has left the coast clear for them to multiply. “Now man,” he concludes, “have to be the new predator of jellyfish.”

It’s an thought the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization is encouraging too. For years, fishermen have been discovering their nets more and more burdened with undesirable jellyfish that they merely throw again into the sea. Silvio Greco hopes this can change and says that sustainability apart, jellyfish is definitely good for you: wealthy in protein and collagen, low in energy, and fat-free.

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Alessandro Vargiu / Archivio Slow Food

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Jellyfish is wealthy in protein and collagen

At Slow Fish I uncover the “eat it to beat it” method is not restricted to the Mediterranean. There’s a Caribbean delegation of fishers, researchers and marine biologists right here to pool concepts on how to battle their worst invasive species: the lionfish. They try to get it on to menus from Mexico to Honduras, Costa Rica to Barbados. Its tender meat, which apparently tastes like snapper, definitely sounds extra appetising than jellyfish.

But the jellyfish cooking demo is, unquestionably, the largest crowd-puller of the total pageant. As the tray of recent medusa fritta is handed round, keen fingers seize the piping scorching morsels. I choose my piece. The tempura is beautiful, cracking seductively between my tooth. I would anticipated the jellyfish to be chewy like calamari, however it’s squidgier. It may simply be as a result of I am hungry however I actually like it.

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A younger lady exclaims it’s “surprisingly good” whereas a Taiwanese woman tells me jellyfish is a standard antipasto again dwelling and she or he was curious to see what the Italians would do with it. The man beside me is unimpressed. “The batter’s good however the jellyfish tastes of nothing and it’s slippery,” he grumbles. I ask a three-year-old what she thinks. “Yummy or yucky?” “Yummy!” she grins at me, chewing fortunately. She was most likely hungry too.

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Alessandro Vargiu / Archivio Slow Food

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A curious crowd tries the jellyfish tempura (medusa fritta, in Italian)

Marco Visciola has additionally made a boiled jellyfish salad with rice vinegar, sesame oil, carrot and cucumber – a standard recipe a Japanese colleague gave him. Again I am impressed, though I feel jellyfish’s impartial style – or lack of style – may lend itself to any decisive flavours.

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Alessandro Vargiu / Archivio Slow Food

But Marco’s offered. “For me, it was a brand new expertise and there have been quite a bit of curious individuals,” he enthuses, including that he now plans to put domestically caught jellyfish on his restaurant’s summer season menu. “It’s a novelty a chef can provides diners. I feel it will grow to be well-liked.”

I am not totally satisfied. But in the event you by no means need one other seaside vacation to be ruined by a coastal jellyfish invasion, maybe it actually is time to cease fretting and begin frying.

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