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Last October, we were on a road above a beach in a small town near Bar Harbor, Maine, in the Northeast United States. We looked down and saw two fishermen loading their trucks with piles of something fascinating they had just brought in from the ocean with large nets.

I'm trying to learn what they are, and for what purpose they're used.

They're round, probably 5 inches in diameter, spiky, and mostly green with a bit of brown. The fisherman was inspecting one closely in his hands, and we were able to get a good picture of that. I didn't get a close-up of the other side, but some in the pile look more puffy, so maybe those were upside-down, or right-side up, depending on what it actually is! At first I thought they were totally covered in those spikes. However, if you click to enlarge the picture and look closely in the middle, there's something that almost looks like it could be a mouth or other opening.

My guess is they either end up in salt water aquariums, or at a type of restaurant where I've never been.

I know all seaweeds are alive, so I assume they're alive at the time of harvesting, although I don't know for how much longer, especially in a big pile on a hot day. Are they some type of sea plant, or animal in the sense that we generally think of animals? If it's the latter, and they're bound for a restaurant, what and where are the individual body parts? What parts are edible? How are they served?

If they are indeed edible, and someone has actually tasted or cooked with one, and has something more familiar to compare it with, I'd love to know that.

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They are Sea Urchins and they taste like mussels. People mostly eat them raw.

They're actually pretty tasty.

Oh yeah, you'll peel off the shell and go for the slimy flesh, a delicacy with fresh lemonjuice and a pinch of salt.

I used to pick them open with my pocketknife and slurp them up with some saltwater (depending on the sea it's probably not the most sanitary way to consume them).

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    A delicacy in the Mediterranean! – user2766 Sep 9 '16 at 8:04
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    A rare case that the answer is by far shorter than the question but still absolutely valid :) – OddDeer Sep 9 '16 at 11:25
  • Now that I've seen some pictures of an open sea urchin, can someone qualify, is the whole entire thing edible? It looks like that yellow part might be the meat, but I'm not sure of the rest of it. Thanks! – Sue Sep 10 '16 at 17:38
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    yes the whole thing is edible, about the same as oysters – Jeredepp Sep 13 '16 at 11:26

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