Purple Hotchi, the name of our uniquely curated purple uni, is derived from hotchi-witchi, an English Romani word meaning hedgehog, or literally translated “forest urchin.”
In the ocean, purple sea urchins are commonly found in large abundance. With an insatiable appetite, the urchins consume all the kelp and other seaweeds in their path. Crawling along the seafloor, swarms of urchins can create vast tracts where anything and everything on the reef is eaten down to bare rock; these areas are known as “urchin barrens”. Once the urchins have consumed all of the available kelp and other algae within a barren, they sit around and wait for it to grow back, living without food for an unbelievable amount of time. Known to many as “zombie urchins”, these urchins do not have enough food available to produce roe – when urchins are devoid of roe they have no economic value.
Sea urchin, or Uni as the roe is known in the culinary world, is a delicacy that has been harvested off the California coast by urchin divers for decades. While red urchins have been prized by both divers and chefs alike for their large size and predictable yield, the purple urchins have remained relatively untouched. Deemed inconsistent and commercially non-viable, and with few natural predators, empty zombie purple urchins carpet the seafloor in the barrens they have created. Surviving on almost nothing and frequently lacking plump, rich uni, purple urchins have remained ignored by the commercial diving and culinary community…until now.
In a unique partnership between the commercial wild-capture urchin fishery and aquaculture, tank fattened purple urchins are emerging as a unique culinary delicacy.
In Santa Barbara, The Cultured Abalone Farm has teamed up with commercial urchin divers Harry Liquornik and Stephanie Mutz to address this ecological concern while creating a novel food product. Collected from the wild, starving empty purples are fattened and finished in tanks at The Cultured Abalone Farm- this partnership both aids in managing the purple urchin population while cultivating a desirable delicacy. Over the course of ten weeks purple urchin feast on natural, fresh cultured and harvested seaweeds (and never given artificial pelleted feed), these zombie urchins are transformed into Purple Hotchis. Sweet, plump, and ready for your enjoyment.