Hunting Grounds - Episode I of the Sea Urchin Trilogy
Foreground of this photo: yours truly; Valeria, sea urchin enemy #1 and Sue, my companion in the shade. Background: our sea urchin hunting grounds. We call this place "the lythos" (Greek for "the rock") and it's a great place to swim, sun-worship (if you're into that kind of masochism) and hunt sea urchins. You wouldn't know it by looking at this picture, but just under the water's surface, the rocks are teeming with them. Sue and I made for the shade and whiled away the time reading about the Greek islands of Skiathos, Skpoelos and Alonyssos, where Sue was destined next, and taking the odd photo of Valeria, Simone and Gabriel hunting.
Here are Valeria and Simone hunting for urchins with a simple knife to pry them off with and plastic bag to store them until getting back to the house. This is such a simple method compared to what I learned from Gabriel's family. I have always used tools made especially for the hunt: a long broomstick with what looks like a primitive prosthetic hand at the end of it. It's a clamp that you open and close with a long string as you hold the end of the broomstick, then a metal cage with a handle to keep your catch. Now, with such simple tools as a knife, plastic bag and snorkeling mask, Vale and Simo sure caught a LOT of urchins, 32 total!
Gabriel helped out too and here you see him (bottom with Simone, top climbing on the lythos. We also had different methods of determining which urchins to collect. They have to be female see, since it's only the eggs (caviar) that you eat. Valeria who grew up spending the summers on the isle of Capri and hunting these critters ever since she was a wee thing, distinguishes the females by their inky purple color (she says that makes can be brown or black). I learned to pick the ones that had a piece of seaweed or shell or other sea debris on top, as if they were wearing a hat. We learned this summer that whether you go for the purple ones or the ones donning "hats", you've got the females, in all 32 of our catch, we ended up taking NO males by mistake.
Simone insisted that the feeling of a sea urchin "walking" on your hand was cool and not creepy (I did not believe him at first) and had us try it. He was right, it was wild! Here are Simo and Vale with Sue, fresh out of the shade, urchin in hand.
Stay tuned for:
Episode II: The Killing and Cleaning Factory.
Episode III: Recipe: Spaghetti ai Ricci di Mare con Limone e Mentuccia Romana