Sea Urchin gonads…Mmmm

Sea Urchin or as we (Maori) call them kina!

Well it might be a shock to some of you, but underneath those dangerous spikes is something I love so so much.

If I were to describe it to you it would go something like this. A yellowish soft, creamy and smooth texture some people like to call the tongue, which in fact is the gonads of the kina, but we’ll stick to tongue in this blog. It is a kiss from the sea, one of the deep darkest most delicious secrets which I hope remain just that forever.

I remember my very first taste of kina, my grandmothers were shelling a big bag of them for a  family feast in my hometown, Kaikohe. I was amazed at their method of opening these creatures with either two spoons to create halves or a big knife right through it. Every now and then, the shellers would take a juicy slurp of one slimy, smooth creamy kina tongue. Mmmm doesn’t that sound delicious?

I wanted to explore the science behind the kina and what benefits it has to us!

In science it is common to use animal models to study those big scary human diseases. Last year, I worked in the anatomy department and it researchers would use mice and rat models to study neuro-degenerative diseases like Alzheimers Disease and Parkinsons Disease.

However, never have I heard of sea urchins being used to do the same thing. In the case of Alzheimers research, the sea urchin embryo was used to study the molecular mechanisms that underpin this disease, since humans share around 7000 genes with kina (weird right!), we can take advantage of these similarities to study human diseases.

So it might be a little weird considering we don’t have a thousand needles protruding from our bodies like these sea creatures, and I particularly found it weird that something I consider a delicacy is being used to study a neuro-degenerative disease. So my love for neuroscience and seafood has been wrapped into one one big ball. Call me a geek if you life, but this is pretty weird and cool.

The benefits to the consumer you ask?

Well when you taste this heavenly substance, the benefits don’t really matter, but they are in fact low in fat, rich in protein and a very low in calorie content, but to be honest something as good as kina, again, you wouldn’t really fuss about the details.

A delicacy in Japanese cuisine and polynesian foods, I do hope it doesn’t hit the mainstream market and remains a secret for us all. My goal here was not to convince you that kina is delicious, as I would rather most of the world not like it at all. More for me I say!

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19135026

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