Vegetables from the Sea

My first taste of seaweed -- which are large, edible marine algae -- came many years ago when I tried vegetable sushi wrapped in Nori. The salty flavor was initially strange but gradually grew on me. It wasn't until years later that I began to explore other sea vegetable options, like toasted Dulse on salads and hearty Kombu and Kelp in broths and soups. Now, seaweed is a valued part of my diet, as it was and still is for indigenous peoples all over the world.

Photo of Kelp
Washed up Atlantic Kelp (Saccharina longicruris) posing on the sand

Throughout their lifetime of immersion in mineral-rich ocean water, seaweeds also accumulate rich stores of micro-nutrients. While these algae are highly valued for the feeding of garden soil (as compost and garden fertilizer), the direct food value of seaweeds appears to have largely faded from the consciousness of modern Americans. Aside from processed Nori wraps, how many people are aware of seaweed's vast culinary uses?

Seaweeds are adapted to living in conditions of constant movement. Influenced by the endless ebb and flow of ocean waters, they must remain flexible yet firmly attached to their anchor points. Humans, too, can thrive in these shifting times by remaining rooted in the present moment, and I suggest that seaweeds are therefore not just sources of nutrition but living beings with life lessons to share. Buy taking in seaweeds, we incorporate their wise spirits into our lives.

Photo of Atlantic Kombu
Atlantic Kombu (Laminaria digitata) has many "fingers"

If you are interested in adding some wild algae to your diet, I recommend finding a local source of hand-harvested, air-dried sea vegetables. Ironbound Island Seaweed (a small company based in Winter Harbor, Maine) sells several kinds of seaweed, which they describe in detail on their site.  They offer seaweed by the pound, as well as 2.5 pound Ocean Harvest Bushel for those who want to experiment with all their east-coast offerings.

Of course, you can also harvest seaweed yourself.  But be aware, that while gathering piles of rotting seaweed from a coastal beach may work for garden mulch, edible seaweeds need to be gathered while they are still alive. If you are up for the challenge and don't mind getting wet, I recommend contacting an experienced seaweed harvester to inquire about apprenticing.

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