Octopi belong to the Octopoda order. The common octopus (Octopus vulgaris) is a cephalopod mollusk valued for its abundance and taste.
Octopi have reddish-to-brown bodies and large oval heads that contain their eyes, brains, and three hearts: two to pump blood to the gills and a third to circulate blood throughout the body.
Octopus mantle cavities can grow up to 25 centimeters and hold all other internal organs as well as the ink the animals use to elude predators. They have eight limbs with two rows of tentacles each that converge at the animal's mouth, which also features a horn-like protuberance; they also have siphons that expel large amounts of water and allow them to move with remarkable swiftness.
Octopi eat worms, small crustaceans, some mollusks and certain fish they catch with their tentacles; crabs are a favorite food.
The following varieties of octopus are fished in Mexican waters:
The common octopus (Octopus vulgaris), which varies in color from white or mottled brown to a cinnamon hue and can measure up to 50 centimeters. Gulf fisheries are the largest producers and octopus fishing occurs year round.
The red octopus (Octupus maya) can grow to 80 centimeters. Greatest production occurs in the Yucatán (Campeche and Yucatán states) and the season peaks from August to December.
Spotted or Pacific octopus (Paraoctopus limaculatus) are fished in Baja California throughout the year.
Octopus is a rich source of vitamin B3, B12, potassium, iodine, selenium, calcium, sodium, phosphorus and numerous proteins that help maintain skin, muscles, hair and nails.
Octopus is available fresh, frozen or canned. Fresh and whole, it can be roasted on a grill or fried, but much octopus is pre-cooked and then put into different recipes like cocktails, or pickled, alone or with other seafood, and is also used as ingredient in salads, rice-based dishes, pasta and stews; octopus can be marinated and cooked in its own ink.
When cooking octopus it is important to calculate the right cooking temperature to prevent the meat turning out either too tough or too bland. In Spanish, the technique is known as “scaring the octopus” (asustar al pulpo), and consists of holding it by the head and dunking it three times in boiling water, garlic, onions and herbs, before completing its preparation inside the pot.


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