Italians Move Toward Jellyfish Cuisine

Warming waters bring jellyfish population explosion—now Italians are looking to clean up the mess.

By Ethan L. Johns
September 19, 2017

Image: Gabriel Bouys / AFP / Getty

There’s hardly a worse moment than when you show up to the beach and there’s nowhere to put your towel. Now, imagine being crowded out of the water as well. Such is the dilemma that Italians (and other coastal Mediterranean countries) are facing as global temperatures rise, as the world’s oceans warm, and as jellyfish colonize the shores, all but prohibiting humans from entering the sea.

With the squishy tentacle monsters ruining beach season for many, some Italian researchers are interested in introducing jellyfish to the Italian diet, reported the New York Times on Sunday. Due to EU regulations currently in place, non-traditional foods—what jellyfish is considered to be in Italy, land of pasta—must be proven safe for human consumption before they can be sold. In order to prove edibility, the animals must first be eaten. Researchers are therefore experimenting with freezing, boiling, frying and marinating the creatures, which apparently taste intensely salty and are rich with protein and omega-3 fatty acid.

Not that eating jellyfish is anything new; the people of China have been eating them for over 1,000 years, and the Japanese government has encouraged their addition to fine cuisine.

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Western culinary research comes on the heels of largely failed attempts at controlling or eradicating jellyfish populations. A notable example of this failure is JEROS, a Korean seafaring invention which promised to catch and grind the squishy-looking creatures into “a wispy jellyfish soup”. As it turned out this “soup” was more like a primordial stew of jellyfish spawn, in which jellyfish eggs and sperm mingle more easily to birth new jellyfish.

Could they—ocean squishies with a seemingly limitless capacity to reproduce—be the ultimate solution to food insecurity for the planet? Looks like we’ll have to try them to find out.

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About Ethan L. Johns

Ethan is the Food News Writer at Genius Kitchen. An expert on the Parisian bistrot, he likes bitters and salted butters, and is no fan of dessert unless it's made with fruit. His hobbies include reading up on the history of borscht and attempting to roll perfect couscous by hand. Twits & Instagram @EthanLJohns