Jellyfish eating, where is thy sting?

  • Posted: Thursday, January 16, 2014 6:00 a.m.

Peanut butter and jelly, yes.

Peanut butter and jellyfish, no.

Sure. that’s a reflexive rejection of jellyfish as food fare for humans — with or without peanut butter, lemon juice, sweet and sour sauce, ketchup, or even tangy tartar sauce.

And that judgment is rendered without benefit of any jellyfish-eating experience.

Still, unlike the remains of blue crabs, the jellyfish carcasses that routinely wash up on local beaches look distinctly unsavory to this gourmet.

Yet lots of folks far from our shores evidently like to eat them. And as culinary-expert colleague Hanna Raskin reported in a front-page story Monday, “The prospect of a new [jelly]fishery is tantalizing to struggling shrimpers and entrepreneurs” in these parts.

Florida and Georgia already are in the jellyfishing business, serving Asian markets.

So why shouldn’t South Carolina get a piece of that profitable action?

Anyway, why quibble over what is and isn’t fit for human consumption?

Hey, some folks find the notions of eating boiled peanuts, pigs’ feet, pickled eggs and chitlins unappetizing.

Again, as repeatedly, maybe even monotonously, pointed out in this space, there’s no accounting for taste — in food, football teams, politicians or reading material.

There is, though, vivid evidence that tastes can and do change. Not so long ago few folks around here ate raw fish. Today sushi restaurants abound in the Lowcountry.

In other words, you might like jellyfish if you try it — and it’s already available in a few Asian restaurants here.

Foreign correspondent

Meanwhile, my man in Fukushima City, Japan, emailed me Wednesday that while he hasn’t sampled jellyfish cuisine (yet), a friend said it can be good, with a “bland” taste but an “interesting” texture.

Just don’t forget that there’s nothing bland about the wrath of some dangerous jellyfish types. Remember too that nature tends to strike back when we least expect it.

For instance, in 1964’s “Giant Space Monster Dogora,” the title character craves the carbon in raw diamonds — and inflicts large-scale destruction on our kind, including members of Japan’s military, to get them.

In 1965’s “Sting of Death,” a jellyfish-like mutant in the Everglades targets fun-loving biology students. Neil Sedaka’s “Do the Jellyfish” only briefly eases the suspense.

In the 1998 flop “Sphere,” Navy technician Alice “Teeny” Fletcher (played by Queen Latifah) is killed by a bunch of angry jellyfish.

But the idea of making jellyfish a cash crop in these parts isn’t cinematic fiction.

It’s a pitch some folks are making as a real deal.

Back to Raskin’s story:

“ ‘This new fishery can become the largest fishery in the state of South Carolina,’ said Carolina Jelly Balls’ front man Steven Geise, who estimates that the project will create 250 to 375 jobs.”

First, though, Carolina Jelly Balls must get more permits beyond the year-old experimental one it now has.

And regardless of that venture’s future, don’t assume you can’t develop a taste for jellyfish.

OK, so none of the honorees at Wednesday’s annual Post and Courier Golden Pen awards luncheon (for 2013’s best letters to the editor) has.

They all said they have never knowingly eaten jellyfish — though one of them added that the U.S. military might have served it to her disguised as something else while she was serving overseas.

A hot business climate

But according to some scientists, a steep rise in ocean temperatures has contributed to a steep rise in jellyfish ranks — and rising problems for species balance in the briny deep.

In other words, we probably should harvest more jellyfish.

After all, there seem to be plenty out there for the taking — and the money making.

As for eating them ...

Go ahead. You first.

And pass the boiled peanuts.



Frank Wooten is assistant editor of The Post and Courier. His email is wooten@postandcourier.com.

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