In the summer of 2013, Stefano Piraino was strolling along the rocky shoreline of Ustica, a small island off the coast of Sicily, when he spotted a washed-up jellyfish. He stooped down and prodded it. Then, in an impromptu moment, he tore off a piece and popped it in his mouth. It was salty, crunchy and crispy from the sun.
"[It was] very tasty," remembers Piraino, a zoologist and evolutionary biologist at the University of Salento in Lecce, Italy. "It was the first time I had eaten one."
After a few days of lying on the shore their stinging cells are deactivated, Piraino explains. Still, he deters anyone from eating jellyfish straight out of the sea, because raw jellyfish contains bacterial pathogens that can cause food poisoning – although in his case any bacteria should have been killed off by UV radiation from the sun.
Nevertheless, Piraino is an advocate for seeing more of the invertebrates on the menu. This is a possibility that researchers are exploring in the face of decimated fish populations and an increasing global food crisis.