Polynesian caviar, anyone?

paloloWe don’t get it naturally here in Hawaii, as far as I know, but I recently saw a post on one of the popular social media websites reminding me that for some of our South Pacific island cousins, this is the season of “Polynesian caviar” — palolo.

Once a year in western Polynesia (and at other times in the year in other tropical locales), during the waning moon in October/November the spawning parts of kajillions of Samoan palolo sea worms (Eunice viridis, a Polychaeta species) rise from relatively shallow coral beds for a few hours of massive night-time co-mingling on the surface.

Hungry fishermen scoop up the blueish-green South Pacific delicacy with buckets, pans and nets, while their families look forward to eating it raw or cooked. I had my first taste years ago at a public school in Tutuila: Someone had shared their catch. Cafeteria workers froze it, and then later fried it with butter and onions for school lunch.

Islanders around Samoa, Tonga, Fiji and Vanuatu look forward to this season all year; and if you were born to it or you’ve got taste-buds like a certain well-known TV foodie guy, you might enjoy it, too. For example, try frying and spreading it on toast, like caviar; otherwise, pass the mahimahi, please: It’s definitely an acquired taste.