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Sea urchins are bottom feeding echinoderms that are found in every ocean around the world. California sea urchins are usually found in kelp beds near the coastline in about 50 feet of water. The urchins that we process range from dark blackish purple to red in color. Covered with short to long spines, the diameter of a sea urchin can reach up to six inches and the average weight is one pound.
Inside every sea urchin is the prize: bright orange to pale yellow, “tongues” of uni. Commonly referred to as roe, these soft golden tongues are actually the urchin’s reproductive organs. On average, each urchin will contain five uni tongues. Uni has long been considered a delicacy in Japan and sushi bars worldwide because of its sweet flavor and succulent texture that melts in your mouth. In some cultures, uni is considered an aphrodisiac!
When we ship live California sea urchin, it is indeed alive. Live urchin is cold packed with Gel Packs and mailed with the last shipments of the day to make sure it will be strong enough to get to its destination. Sometimes the live urchin perishes during transit. However, this in no way means the urchin is bad! We guarantee that it is still completely fresh and perfectly safe to consume.
Once you get the hang of it, cracking, cleaning and serving sea urchin is quite fun! To view a video tutorial:
When you crack open a whole, live California sea urchin you will find any combination of the following grades: All taste good and can be eaten raw.
California Gold: Bright yellow/orange, firm texture (formerly A-Grade)
California Premium: Mild yellow color, softer pieces (formerly B-Grade)
Vana: Dark color, melting soft, also known as Vana (formerly C-Grade)
We receive California sea urchins from divers based in San Diego, Santa Barbara and Fort Bragg. In San Diego, a group of ten divers harvest the urchins by hand in fertile kelp beds less than two miles off the coastline.
Sea urchin fishing can be a hazardous occupation, and only a select number of permits are released. Divers must battle unreliable conditions in rocky coastal areas; as well as rely on air from either a heavy scuba tank or traditional hookah rig - a hose attached to an air compressor far above on the boat. To pluck the spiny urchins off the rocky sea bottom, divers use a hand rake and carry a net for collection.
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