What is abalone? This odd-looking creature is a marine snail with an ear-shaped spiral shell to protect its vital organs. As a seafood, abalone is among the ocean’s greatest delicacies.
Unfortunately, abalone is also fast becoming one of the ocean’s most endangered animals. These small gastropods have been snatched up legally and, more often illegally, at an increasingly rapid rate since the late twentieth century in order to feed Asia’s abalone demand. The reason is, unfortunately, partially due to the aphrodisiac history of abalone. But is abalone an aphrodisiac?
The Chinese view abalone as an aphrodisiac. Across the Far East, people believe it is good luck to eat them. But to the rest of the world, it is the flavor that makes abalone popular.
Abalone is endangered
Unfortunately, symbolic belief coupled with abalone’s much-sought flavor has led to a demand that far outweighs supply. But there’s even more to the problems with trying to protect this valued seafood.
In the early part of the twenty-first century, the Chinese mafia became heavily involved in the South African abalone trade. Just off the South African shores, the gastropod once numbered among the Indian Ocean’s most plentiful forms of protein. Although there are over 130 known varieties of this sea snail, the Haliotis midae, most common to South Africa, is among the most popular seafood in China. Prices for this booty are staggering and although South Africa’s waters are among the hardest hit, divers are collecting abalone at an alarming rate in the waters surrounding California, France, New Zealand and Australia.
The plight of the abalone is tragic but it is also alarming. That’s because abalone plays a role in the ecosystem and overfishing threatens that role. Like a snail in your home aquarium, abalone is believed to control algae density in their ocean environment.
Can abalone be farmed?
So what is abalone’s chance for survival? There has been experimentation in California to spawn the state’s over-fished white abalone in controlled environments. Hydrogen peroxide added to an abalone tank acts as, well, an aphrodisiac for this prized aphrodisiac—yes, even gastropods need the help of an aphrodisiac on occasion. The hope is that eventually, California scientists will operate abalone fisheries to help supply the increasing global demand for this delicacy. This is good news for West Coast abalone lovers, who are cautiously optimistic.
Is abalone legal?
If you’re interested in tasting this aphrodisiac delicacy, you might be wondering about whether or not you can obtain abalone legally. The laws vary by country and are heavily regulated. However, there is limited abalone harvesting permitted in most countries where this shellfish is found.
In the United States, fishing for red abalone is permitted during a limited season, and only in certain parts of California. Red abalone is the only abalone for which fishing permits are allowed in the U.S. This is why the potential for abalone farms is exciting to seafood lovers.
What does abalone taste like?
It can best be described as similar to but richer than scallops. It is buttery and naturally salty, like many shellfish. The flavor is quite mild and is best showcased with simple cooking methods and flavors. Think about cooking it the way you might cook scallops but be prepared for a much chewier texture. This sea snail has a firm texture, similar to escargots or calamari.
How to serve abalone
It is not the body of this marine snail, but the large, muscular foot that is served at the table. Common preparations for fresh abalone include serving raw as sushi or ceviche. This is a great choice for showcasing the shellfish’s delicate flavor. But other ways to cook abalone include grilling, batter frying and sautéing. It also plays a starring role in many Chinese recipes from soups to stir-fries. One of the easiest ways to serve abalone is to slice it, dredge it in flour and sauté it in butter. Try cooking it this way and serving it in the shell.
Of course, this isn’t the only use for the shell.
Prized for the shell, abalone is more than an aphrodisiac food
What is an abalone shell used for? Well, stunningly iridescent abalone shells have been used in the making of jewelry and decorative arts for centuries. Many modern-day artists use the shell interchangeably with precious gemstones and work it into fine jewelry. They do this not only for its look but also for healing properties said to be brought about from the abalone’s energy.
You may have heard that the shell is the most important part of the abalone. In Chinese homeopathy, the shell is often ground to powder and used in soups as an added aphrodisiac boost. Not only is it beautiful but some alternative health practitioners say that abalone has healing properties. Those who practice energy healing believe that the shell can enhance feelings of peace and love.
The health benefits of abalone
Beyond the potential healing and reported aphrodisiac properties of the shell, abalone has some key nutritional components. Like many of the aphrodisiacs of the ocean, abalone meat is high in protein and low in fat, making the sea snail an excellent food for sustaining stamina.
What is the nutritional value of abalone?
A serving of abalone is about 43% protein, (almost 17g per 3-oz serving). But that’s not the only nutrition this seafood offers. A 3-oz serving of abalone also offers:
1.5mg vitamin C
That all sounds good but how can this nutrition benefit your sex life? Well, this marine snail’s aphrodisiac reputation may be due in part to the fact that it is a good source of selenium. (Selenium is shown to be effective as a mood enhancer.) Selenium is a particularly important nutrient for men since sperm contains a high percentage of the mineral.
Abalone is also a good source of magnesium, another mineral essential for the production of sexual hormones. And it is a source of potassium, a key nutrient for keeping your blood flowing and making sexual arousal possible. And it also provides beneficial minerals including calcium, zinc and iron.
This article was written in 2010 and most recently updated in November 2021.
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