05.01.08–Traditional Foods and Recipes–Sea Urchins


Sea Urchin

Can’t afford ‘virgin sturgeon’ caviar? Never mind. If you live near any of Alaska’s 33,904 miles of shoreline, you probably have access to a goodie that some say is more delicious than the finest caviar–the eggs of the sea urchin, a creature that is abundant in the shallow waters of most of Alaska’s sea coasts.

And so if you must feed a caviar taste with a cabbage–soup pocketbook, better find out when the sea urchins in your area are carrying full egg sacs. Along both the east and west coasts of the United States, the best gathering time appears to be midsummer through the end of the year. In south–eastern, the usual spawning time is April.

Preparation Tips

The ‘caviar’ are the only edible part of the sea urchin, both both male and female gonads are edible. However, the brighter the orange color–as in the female–the better the taste is thought to be. Gathering the roe is rather like shucking a very hard-shelled, hard–cooked chicken egg–easy enough if you have a hammer. Turn the sea urchin on its back, crack the test (the protective skeleton) in several places, pull off the lower part along with the viscera, loosen the egg sac from each of its five points and scoop it out with your finger.

Eat the roe raw, spread on bread or crackers and sprinkled with lemon. Unfortunately, the eggs from one individual will go about as far toward providing a meal as one hen would do feeding daily breakfast to a family of 10. It takes several sea urchins to produce a cupful (240 mL) of roe. But if you’ve priced sturgeon roe recently, you won’t find the effort. A cupful can go a long way.

Agugnas (Sea Urchins)

Sea urchins are gathered among the seaweeds whenever there is a low tide. They are opened with a thin stone or a knife. The eggs from the sea urchin are scooped out with the thumb and eaten raw. The sea urchins with light color are the ones which are good eating. Those which have a dark color are not very good to eat. They are said to be skinny.

Cited From: Nilgugim Qalgadangis–Atkan Food Recipe reprinted from Aleutian Wind, written by Moses Dirks and Lydia Dirks, 1979.

Cited From: Cooking Alaskan by Alaskans, published by Alaska Northwest Books, 1983.

Barbequed Urchin

Sea urchins are round spiny creatures that look like red, green or purple pin cushions. They live on rocks or kelp in tide pools or shallow waters near the low tide mark. All sea urchins are edible. Their bright orange eggs are considered a delicacy and eaten raw…or you can throw the whole urchin into your campfire, cook it until the spines burn, then crack it open.

Cited From: Alaska Tidelines, Volume II, Number 8, May 1980.

Cited From: Cooking Alaskan by Alaskans, published by Alaska Northwest Books, 1983.

Urchin Sea Eggs

Gather the sea urchins in the spring of the year. Scrape out the yellow part from the inside of the shell and serve it raw.

Cited From: Aleut Cookbook, Saint Paul Island

Cited From: Cooking Alaskan by Alaskans, published by Alaska Northwest Books, 1983.

Cooking Alaskan by Alaskans

Wikipedia on Sea Urchins

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