Can You Eat Starfish And Is It Safe?

Starfishes are a staple view along coast lines. Some have even experienced its painful sting while on the beach at one point in time. They are given the name because well, they are shaped like stars. 

Can you eat starfish?

Can you eat starfish?

For most of us, we just know the starfish as that peculiar looking star-shaped thing visible when it is out of the water and slimy looking when it is underwater. But can you eat it? In this post, you will find that out. 

The fast answer to the question is yes, you can eat a starfish. However, you would not find it on a menu in an American restaurant. But in some parts of the world like China and Japan, it is a traditional delicacy. 

Can you read more : Can You Eat Marlin?

What is a starfish?

But before anything else, what is a starfish? The starfish is also known as the sea star and scientifically speaking, it belongs to the Echinodermata group. This group is known for their five-point radial look. As such, the starfish is cousins with the sea urchin, sea lilies, sea cucumbers, and the sand dollars. 

What is a starfish

According to marine life science reports, there are about 1,600 species of starfishes distributed around the world. Depending on temperature and general climate of the seas, they behave in distinct ways and would have different colors. Starfishes generally feed on clams and mussels. The coolest characteristic of starfishes is their ability to regenerate. This ability allowed them to thrive and spread around the world. 

Is it safe to eat starfish?

Is it safe to eat starfish
Can you eat starfish?

As it is akin to sea urchins, starfishes are also edible to eat but not in its entirety. There are only portions of the starfish which are safe to be eaten. The only safe portion to eat would be the meat inside the five radials. 

It is said, as per common custom and scientific facts, that the hard “skin” is poisonous. They are still considered as other poisonous parts and as such, it cannot be cooked by non-experts as it would be perilous, and well, poisonous if not prepared well. 

Is starfish good for your health? 

Relatively yes. There is a reason as to why it has thrived in some Asian countries like China and Japan as a native delicacy for thousands of years now. Perhaps, one of the primary reasons is the nutrition content of starfish. 

Is starfish good for your health
Is starfish good for your health?

The edible starfish is said to contain key nutrients that are beneficial for the body’s health. For one, the edible starfish does not contain carbohydrates and sugar. In that alone, you can already reap a lot of health benefits. An edible starfish weighing at 2.5oz is said to contain at least 20g of protein.  With these key health nutrient content of the edible starfish, it is understandable why it comes with a high price. 

Which starfish is poisonous?

As has been mentioned, there are about 1,600 species of starfishes around the world. Some species are poisonous and some are edible. Among those known poisonous starfish species would be the following: 

  • Leather star:

    There is contention as to its toxin level but compared to the three listed here, this one is the least poisonous. It has the common five-radial, star shape and it looks very jiggly. Its color looks like the molted reddish, orange and white color of crab meat. It mainly feeds on sea anemones and is endemic in all the states of the North American region. 

Leather Star

  • Thorns:

    Thorns starfish considered as the most poisonous starfish, does not have the usual pronounced star shape. It is commonly bright red in color and sits in the deeper part of the sea and gets its name for its thorns all over. It can grow to a maximum of 3ft and is striking for its 21 arms and feeds on corals.

Thorns starfish

  • Sunflower star: 

    This one is not just poisonous but also gigantic. It is one of the largest species of starfishes out there. It can grow up to 2-meters in size and 5kg in weight. Regardless of this, they are very speedy, making them prolific predators under the sea. 

Sunflower star

Can you eat raw starfish?

This one is a resounding NO. It needs painstaking hours to be prepared so as not to activate the poison in its hard shell. The concentration of the poison is also found in the stomach and the intestines. Eating it raw exposes you to fatal poisoning. It is said that it could kill you in just a few hours or in minutes depending on the amount of poison ingested and the type of poisonous starfish you consumed. 

Other marine creatures can safely feed on starfish because they have a counter digestive chemical for the poison called logisterase. 

What does a starfish taste like?

Unlike sea urchin, the taste of starfish is virtually challenging to describe. Even among expert cooks of this delicacy, the taste is contestable. Some would claim that it tastes and smells like the Chinese river crabs and sea urchins. 

What does a starfish taste like
What does a starfish taste like?

Some first-time eaters would even compare it to the taste of ground beef while some extreme comparisons would liken it to the taste of toothpaste. Notwithstanding all of these, the general taste of starfish is that of a creamier and softer version of the sea urchin taste. It can also have a bitter aftertaste, depending on how it was prepared and cooked. 

How can I cook starfish?

The most common and “safest” methods to cook a starfish is through boiling it or frying it. If you have been to the streets of the coastal regions of China and Japan, you would find fried and boiled starfish on sticks in markets and street food lines. It is an added attraction to tourists but of course, they come at a considerable price. 

  • Boiled

    This is the more traditional method of cooking starfish. It only takes 8-minutes at most to boil the starfish. After it is boiled, it is taken out from the pot and would be immediately submerged in ice water for about 15-seconds for it to be consumed immediately. 

Boiled starfish
Boiled starfish
  • Fried

    This one is the more popular way of cooking starfish. It is a popular snack in China, finding it even in the busiest streets of Beijing and Shanghai. The outer shell is carefully removed, leaving only the meat. The meat is put on a stick, and can be deep fried or even grilled. 

What is the use of starfish?

What is the use of starfish
What is the use of starfish

Starfishes are not just cooked for some added tourist value. As a native delicacy that has been around for thousands of years, it has proven to be beneficial in many respects to health and generally the human body. Starfishes are mainly used for medicinal purposes. As such, here are some of the most significant medicinal benefits of starfishes: 

  • It has a high level of antioxidants which fight body aging.
  • It improves immunity, memory and brain health.
  • Accelerates wound healing especially after major surgeries. 
  • It is used in treating high blood pressure and atherosclerosis. 
  • It balances blood sugar and helps in lessening frequent urination at night. 
  • The hard shell contains anti-inflammatory components used in treating hay fever and arthritis. 
  • It has non-stick materials which are used in repelling viruses and bacteria-induced diseases. 

Ecologically speaking, starfishes are neutralizers of the ecosystem. As a matter of fact, they are considered as the most important predator in shallow ecosystems. They do not discriminate in terms of what they eat so their feeding activities really regulate and balance the entire ecosystem. 

Interesting facts

Aside from what we already covered, there are still some interesting facts which you should know. Hence, here are some starfish facts which you can learn a thing or two from if you are really interested about them: 

  • Starfishes do not survive in freshwater. 
  • Regeneration takes a year and is not immediately unlike lizards. 
  • They eat inside out. 
  • They can reproduce in both sexual and asexual methods.
  • Brittle stars are not starfishes but they are cousins. 
  • They have no blood and no brain.
  • Starfishes can live for up to 35 years. 
  • Their scientifically correct nickname is sea star and not starfish. 
  • Sea stars commonly have the five-radial star shape but some species have even 20 to 40 arms at most. 
  • They can thrive in any type of seafloor; from the coldest to tropical sea beds. 

Conclusion

To conclude, sea stars, as they should properly be called, are interesting not just because of their stark star shape but also for their other characteristics and uses. They might just be lurking around while we gather at the beach but really, some of its species are native delicacies in some parts of the world. 

With the question of can you eat starfish, we have proven that yes, there are edible starfish species. Only experts on preparing and cooking them, however, should do so because they have toxins that could be fatal to humans when ingested. Fundamentally, they are not to be eaten raw unlike sea urchins. If you intend to try cooking one, you need to be abreast of more technical cooking skills to take on one.

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