The octopus belongs to the branch of mollusks, which are soft-bodied animals that usually have a single foot and a protective shell. Mollusks appeared in the oceans about 600 million years ago. Today, there are more than 100, 000 species, which include animals as different from one another as the snail, the giant clam, the mussel and the oyster. The octopus lacks a protective shell, its foot is divided into tentacles and it has a highly developed brain, just like the cuttlefish and the squid.
The octopus is the largest member of the mollusk family and can grow to almost 30 feet (9m) in length.
The octopuses are the queens of camouflage: they can take on the color of the seabed in less than a second, thanks to pigments in their skin that can be expanded or contracted. When the octopus feels threatened, it releases a cloud of ink towards the aggressor and rapidly flees.
The female common octopus demonstrates extraordinary devotion to her children. Plentiful on European coasts, this octopus lays its eggs in little clusters that it hangs from the ceiling of its dwelling. The mother octopus then tirelessly cleans and ventilates them, without eating until they hatch, three months later. After completing this arduous task, the mother dies from exhaustion.
The flesh of certain species is poisonous. Mot species, however, are edible. Octopus was a particular favorite of the Greeks and the Romans, who considered it an aphrodisiac. Octopus continues to figure prominently in Greek and Italian cuisine, but in many countries, including the United States and Australia, it is much less popular and usually serves only as a bait.
Octopus can be grilled, poached, sautéed, fried or steamed. It is delicious when marinated or used in Asian dishes. It goes particularly well with garlic, tomatoes, onions, lemon, ginger, olive oil, cream, wine and soy sauce.