What do most people like to eat? Warm food, Right? Now think you have received ‘worm’ as food instead of ‘warm food’. It might not be a great view for you but it is for some people. Sea worms are a great delicacy in many places. The most common is Palola Virdis. It is an underwater worm also known by the name palolo worm, wawo or nyale. It is also known as the Samoan palolo worm, as it is found in Samoa.
The worm can be found mainly in the tropical region around the islands of the Pacific Ocean. Alongside Samoa, it can be seen in Indonesia, Vanuatu, and some islands of the Philippines. They take shelter in the coral rubble in the shallow water. The male worm can be reddish-brown and the female worm can be bluish-green in color.
Between February and March, on the island of Lombok in Indonesia, a traditional event is held to catch the sea worms. The festival is known by the name of Bau Nayle, which translates to ‘to catch sea worms’.
In Samoa, after seven days of the first full moon in October, worm hunting begins. During that period, worms are gathered with nets and buckets. People dip their nets, buckets, and sometimes bare hands as well in water and come up with long, spaghetti-like strands. They share the feast with their family and relatives, as the palolo harvest is considered a part of their culture and tradition but in recent years they started to sell it in the markets. A kilogram of worm costs around 100 dollars.
One interesting fact is that the head is missing from all the dishes. It is because the worms have a rare ability to detach their lower half. In every mating season, the worms do it to float to the surface and release eggs or sperm. That explains why they are harvested during a specific time of the year. So, while the ‘tails’ are getting eaten by people, the front parts live in ignorance under the water of the ocean.
The consumers describe its taste as a combination between abalone, mussels and oysters. They have a salty, fishy flavor coupled with the stringy texture of noodles. Some people like to eat them raw. However, most of the time they are served with banana chips and taro after being fried with butter and onions. They are also fried with eggs. Sometimes the worms are baked into bread with coconut milk and onions.
The delicacy of sea worms is quite limited till this point in time. It is mostly eaten as a part of the tradition, which is great for strengthening the bond between family and friends. To make this delicacy popular throughout the world, sea worms need to be cultivated commercially.