Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Q&A with Andrew from Pacific Wildcraft

Andrew from Pacific Wildcraft was extremely generous in sharing his wisdom and thoughts with me (and you) about his experience as a sea vegetable harvester. I met him at the Tuesday Berkeley Farmer's Market (off of MLK) awhile back, and the sea vegetables he harvests are amazing. I'm finding that the local sea vegetables are much more tasty than the ones I've bought that are non-local. Definitely visit his booth at the farmer's market (or his website) if you get a chance.

Here's our Q&A

Q. how and why did you get interested in sea vegetables and harvesting?
A. Seaweeds for me represent an opportunity for wildcrafting. Wildcrafting is an opportunity for me to locate myself in the world, to immerse myself in the smells, tastes, and textures of nature. Go into someone’s garden and begin harvesting their food, and they will likely scold you for taking what is theirs, as they see themselves of creators of that garden. When we gather from the wild, we gather from Creator’s garden. And as creator made me and put me in this garden, it is perfectly natural that I explore, learn, utilize, and benefit from it. My first mentor in wildcrafting taught that “wildcrafting is stewardship.” Wildcrafting is being alive.

My years living in Mendocino County, my close proximity to the ocean, and my growing knowledge of the powers of seaweeds inspired me to take the plunge into the frigid Pacific waters and explore the wilds and rhythms of ocean, moon, and tides. I like the seeming simplicity of seaweeds, the single-celled synthesis of ocean and starlight replicating and radiating in the harmonious life-giving impulse of foundational DNA patterning. To my mind, this patterning is what gives seaweeds the power to unravel such harmful and contrary patterns such as viruses and cancers.

Q. how often do you harvest and where?
A. Attunement to the harvest cycle is attunement to the seasons and the moon. As the spring sun becomes stronger and closer to our part of the earth, the seaweeds spring into life, growing rapidly. The cycles of the moon determine the action of the tides.

Low tide in the spring and summer is the best time to harvest. For a fleeting moment, mama ocean draws herself back from shore unveiling the abundant life at the edge of the earth. Piles of brown, red, purple, and green; seaweeds smooth, bumpy, iridescent, sheen, swaying in the calm waters or high and dry now, up on the rocks, cloaked in fog or shimmering in early morning sunlight, greet these human eyes. And that’s just the seaweed. The full moon is sinking into the ocean, or the new moon is rising behind the hills to the east. These are the times to harvest. This is my life on the Mendocino Coast.

Q. does anyone help you with the harvesting?
A. Generally, I have harvested alone. I am open to going with others, though I am somewhat protective of having this space for myself.

Q. how do you reach the sea vegetables? (boats, kayak, etc.?)
A. The seaweeds are right there. Walk up to the edge, roll up your pants. Check them out, pick some. I used to hike to my preferred spots and pack out the harvest, sometimes in three trips and sometimes ½ mile- 1 mile each way. With my kayak, I can put-in just about anywhere, and though I may emerge with the harvest at a short steep trail instead of a long flat walk, I mostly transport the heavy harvest load over water and this is good for my knees and back. Kayaking is a different adventure altogether, taking me to otherwise inaccessible places and sometimes precarious situations. In a kayak, I can sometimes ride the harvest in on a wave. I can also tip over!

Q. where do you dry your sea vegetables and how long does that usually take?
A. The last two seasons I have dried my harvest at a natural building/permaculture intentional community in the hills near Boonville. I hope to continue with this arrangement, as it is much more rewarding and sustainable for me.

Drying the seaweed on a hot sunny day takes only a few hours. When it is dry, I pack it into food grade drums.

Q. what are your concerns about the changing state of the ocean in regards to pollution?
A. The world is becoming more polluted in exponentially increasing rates. Pristine areas that face no significant threats from local pollution can be harmed from effluent originating across the world. In the 10 years I’ve been gathering sea vegetables the world has changed significantly. We receive air pollution from China, a nation working very hard to match the pattern of consumption modeled by my country. How many coal-fired plants have come on-line in China alone in those 10 years? How many more by the time I harvest next season? Where will those heavy metals land? Will we drill oil off the N. CA coast to supplement our way of life? Is the changing of the harvest time relative to seasons that I’ve witnessed over the past few years a result of global warming? How will warmer oceans affect the life of the ocean here in N. CA?

Regarding the safety of the seaweed I harvest, I intend to have samples tested at least once a month, if not bi-monthly, beginning next season. Any science students interested in supporting such research should please contact me (707-357-0375)

In general, I never take for granted or assume in my heart that I will be harvesting again the next season. Who knows?

Q. where and when can people buy your sea vegetables?
A. People can buy or eat seaweed I harvest @ Café Gratitude, Andy’s Produce Stand in Sebastopol, Berkeley Farmers Market/ Tuesday, Judahlicious in SF, among other places, or just call and purchase direct from me.

Q. what's your favorite type? what's your favorite recipe to make with sea vegetables?
A. Nori is probably my favorite; is probably the most widely consumed seaweed on earth, by humans. Toast lightly in a hot skillet, in the oven on the lowest temp. setting for just a couple minutes, or put in a dehydrator if you have one, seasoned or plain. It’s delicious and protein and vitamin rich.

Kombu in soup, or wakame marinated, raw or in stirfry/simmery, saucey-type dish is delicious and nutritious.

Q. do you belong to a community of people who also harvest?
A. In a way. It depends how you define community. There are a number of other harvesters on the Mendocino coast, most I rarely even see or talk to but once every couple years. Sometimes we get together and counsel. There are other harvesters I’m not even aware of, but there’s some kind of common bond there. We’re all in it for the same thing really: to sustain ourselves in a good way, in a natural, intrinsically human way, by bringing good food and medicine to people of the world. To be wildcrafters.

Many people ask me if they can come out with me sometime. I haven’t done much of that for a number of reasons: primarily that I’ve never wanted to commit to being somewhere on a given harvest day. What if the water is really calm and I can slip in with my kayak over there!? I more open to taking folks out with me a few days this upcoming season, God willing.

Q. is harvesting a year-long, economically sustainable practice for you?
A. For most harvesters, including myself, it is part of the mosaic of income patching. My business has grown a little more every year. Central to my way of life is keeping my needs and expenses nominal. It’s all relative.

Q. what challenges do you face in your business?
A. Challenges exist, but in general I don’t face them because I don’t cling too tightly to the notion that I’ll always be able to do this, for many reasons. So to really face some of these concerns I think saps my energy as I can find myself confronted with many challenges over which I have no control and which can smash my ability, or our ability, to harvest seaweeds, just like a wave smashing me on the rocks. Some possible or probable issues topping the list are climate change, pollution, both global or local (some control there), overzealous government restrictions stripping people of the right to sustainable harvest (some control). Other just as likely candidates: nuclear war, twisting my knee skiing, straining my shoulder surfing, being smashed by a wave, being inspired to do something else. What if we decide not to drill on the coast and the people of Columbia, Nigeria, Venezuela, Iraq, Russia, and the Artic Caribou decide they don’t want to destroy what’s left of their world to provide oil for us? How am I supposed to get my seaweed then!

Q. why do you think its important that customers buy locally vs. from japan or the east coast?
A. First, I think people will generally get better seaweed from North Coast harvesters than they will from anywhere else in the world. We are micro-harvester/processors up here. A lot of Korean or Japanese seaweeds are farmed, and actually contribute to local pollution in those countries. I think some Maine harvesters have a good quality product to offer.

Supporting local harvesters supports a local culture and supports people who take an interest in this aspect of our landscape. We honor and utilize the offerings of our local world and offer them to people who live here. By supporting local harvesters, people support other members of their greater community who will step up to protect the availability of our local resources to the extent that we are able.

Q. what measures do you take to ensure that you're harvesting sustainably?
A. Very simple. I trim plants so they continue to grow, as a barber trims hair, and I harvest at the same places year after year so I can see the affect of my presence. I get to know and respect a place so that to harvest there is to honor it, and to honor it is to harvest with respect and gratitude. Plants like to be harvested.

To me, how I conduct my operation is important. In the ten years I’ve harvested I’ve travelled almost entirely on biodiesel or veggie oil I’ve gathered as waste oil.

Q. what types of information would you suggest that people be aware of before harvesting on their own?
A. Get a tide chart. Use common sense regarding where you decide to harvest.

Be sure that you can process what you harvest. That’s important, because it enables the harvester to bring completion to the ceremony. The results of an aborted exploit can always be added to the compost, and if the harvesting has been done in a way that allows for regeneration of the plant, then no real harm is done. But what about intention? If the intention is to gather seaweed and make food or medicine, honor yourself and honor the plant and be prepared to see it through.

It’s nice to know what you are harvesting, but a poisonous seaweed is extremely rare and not a concern in our part of the world. Embrace adventure and exploration.

Be aware of the ocean. Harvest facing the ocean. Look down. Harvest. Look up. Turn your back on Big Mama and risk being slapped. She hits hard.

Arrive early. Give yourself time to be blown away.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Sea Veggies at Alternative Food Fair

wild toasted nori recipe (courtesy of Andrew at Pacific Wildcraft) click image to see larger version

The Alternative Food Fair last week was a success! Some of my classmates are also doing projects on alternative food sources so we pooled together to introduce our school to these foods. I brought some local wild toasted nori snacks to pass out and everyone loved them. Some people were hesitant to try sea veggies, but were really happy they did. I think it raised awareness that sea vegetables can actually be something that's tasty and a good snack. I passed out the recipe cards (see above) so that people could make nori snacks at home.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Where to Buy?

Since starting this project I've learned that finding sea vegetables to purchase is a lot easier than I thought (at least in the Bay area). I prefer to buy local, but I've also bought some of the larger brands (like Eden) when local wasn't available. I have a list of suppliers under my links section (see right sidebar) in the event that local sea vegetables aren't an option. I'll keep adding to this list of where to buy sea vegetables in the Bay Area:

1. First check out the farmer's markets in your area because they sell the most local product and you will get to meet the harvester. The farmer's market in Berkeley on Tuesdays sells Mendocino sea veggies from Pacific Wildcraft.

2. Berkeley Bowl in Berkeley: sells a great selection of local and non-local sea vegetables (some from the Mendocino Sea Vegetable Company)

3. Whole Foods Market: each store I've been to has many brands of sea veggies, but not local

4. Alameda Natural Grocery: Carries a good selection of non-local brands

5. Rainbow Grocery in SF
: I've heard that there is a good selection of sea veggies here.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Sea Vegetables & Mercury

Several people have asked me about the threat of mercury in sea vegetables. Like arsenic, it is possible that sea vegetables can absorb mercury. But, the mercury levels are nowhere near what you would find in swordfish, tuna or other large fish. Awhile back it was found that sea vegetables from Norway and Japan both contained small amounts of mercury, but the levels were such that it was considered safe.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Some Thoughts

images from

After 2 months of research, I'm at the point where I've gathered a lot of information about sea vegetables! I wanted to share some of my thoughts with you in easily digestible bits:
  • Sea vegetables are amazing nutritionally and can be a great part of a balanced diet.
  • They are also low in calories and high in protein.
  • I don't think that there is a need to eat them daily, but weekly or a couple of times a week is a great way to go as a supplement to land vegetables.
  • Sea vegetables are a great source of iodine, and this iodine is more accessible to the body than the iodine found in table salt.
  • It is easier for new eaters of sea vegetables to digest them if you start slowly incorporating them into your diet. (much like a vegetarian starting to eat meat again)
  • There are some heavy metals concerns about sea vegetables (they absorb whats in the water), but getting them from trusted sources (and places that do some form of testing) and not eating hijiki often (or at all) is a safe option
  • There are currently a few distributors that are certificated organic. This certification process has some great requirements, but I am unclear whether non-certified organic distributors also follow the same requirements anyway (ie: is organic certification neccessary?)
  • California has some great local suppliers of sea vegetables. These usually small companies hand harvest in Mendocino, where the tides are beneficial for a clean habitat.
  • I am more inclined to buy local if I know that these companies are harvesting sustainably and responsibly (you can ask them directly). These companies can be found at farmer's markets locally without going through a middleman (supermarket). This helps the local economy and the harvesters.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

What Does Organic Certification for Sea Vegetables Really Mean?

Since starting this project, I've wondered what organic certification means for sea vegetables since they don't grow in soil. After much searching and phone calls to various organic certification organizations, I've gotten some answers. Someone from Oregon Tilth was kind enough to let me know that the certification for wild harvested crops is found in section "205.207" of the U.S. Organic Certification cataloging (through the National Organic Program (NOP)).

OCIA, another certification organization gave me the complete list of standards that are currently in use for their personal certification process in regards to sea vegetables. OCIA also let me know that the NOP is currently working on improving standards for aquaculture (sea vegetables fall under this heading) as the field grows. Here are OCIA's standards for sea veggies. Many of Maine Coast Sea Vegetables' products are currently certified organic with OCIA. My remaining question is do other (non-certified) companies follow these practices anyway without being certified?

The following guidelines are written to provide a general background for anyone growing organic wild sea vegetables. These guidelines should be followed if certification of wild sea vegetables will be sought, as they will be the basis for any certification review.

Beds must not be located near any known source of radioactive, chemical, or bacteriological contamination within:
  • a. Twenty miles of any nuclear facility,
  • b. Three miles of any commercial boat building facility,
  • c. Three miles of any industrial discharge area,
  • d. Three miles of any city or town sewage discharge,
  • e. Three-quarters mile of a small harbor entry,
  • f. Three miles of a major harbor or thoroughfare.
Note: A bed’s location relative to prevailing winds and currents may make the
above distances more or less critical. Doubts should be settled by testing.

To insure a bed’s vitality year after year, care should be taken to selectively harvest in the appropriate qualities and manner for the species and nature of each bed including:
  • a. Deep kelp beds with plants at a wide range of maturity levels may be harvested more intensely than shallow kelp beds.
  • b. First year Atlantic alaria plants that will not survive the winter on high rocks may be harvested more intensely than shallow kelp beds.
  • c. Pacific alaria and kelp can be harvested by cutting the growing portions of their blades, leaving their hold fasts and sporophylls of alaria.
  • d. Sea palm can be harvested by cutting frond tips from the plant, leaving stipes and a portion of the grooved blades to regenerate.
  • e. Dulse, laver, sea palm and ocean ribbons can be selectively harvested several times in one season without affecting recruitment rates.
  • f. Use of appropriate harvest tools, such as sickles, knives and other hand tools, will minimize damage to plants and substrate. Any mechanical equipment should be especially designed to minimize plant substrate damage.
  • g. Monitor the changes in beds for size, density, color, composition and regeneration to establish a sustainable harvest capacity for each harvester’s unique territory (See Section 11.10. Management Plan,” for details).
During transport, specific measures should be taken to protect certified harvest from contamination including:
  • a. Harvest containers, whether baskets, buckets, bags, mash nets, etc. or special container boats should be thoroughly cleaned and rinsed before use with fresh sea water.
  • b. Motorless container boats need no floorboards but should have no toxic wood preservative, chalking compounds or flaking marine finishes in contact with harvested plants.
  • c. Full containers transported in boats with or without motors should be separated from bilge water by floorboards, waterproof tarp (plastic, not oiled), or other means.
  • d. Full containers transported in trucks or trailers should be separated from vehicle bed by tarps, boards or some other means.
  • e. Full containers transported in open truck bed or trailer should be covered or closed to keep out airborne contaminates: dust, leaves, etc.
  • f. Full containers should not be left in direct sun on warm, windless days to prevent the start of the decomposition process.
  • g. Full containers should not be left in direct contact with any petroleum product containers any hazardous material containers.
  • h. All contaminated product must be disposed of immediately unless surface contamination can quickly rinse off with salt water.
During the drying process, specific measures should be taken to protect certified product from contamination and to segregate certified from noncertified plants. For example with dulse, laver and other plants dried on nets:
  • a. Weeds on drying grounds should be controlled by hand or by an OCIA approved material.
  • b. Any net material should be either preservative free or have been weathered at least three years before use with sea vegetables.
  • c. Nets should be clean and cleared of any remains of prior harvest before fresh harvest is spread.
  • d. Mechanical shakers for dulse and laver cleaning should be free of remains of the prior day’s harvest.
  • e. Motors that run shakers, either gas or electric, should be carefully separated from plants. A funnel should be used for refueling and fuel containers should be segregated.
  • f. Extinguishing of cigarettes on or near spreading grounds should be prohibited.
  • g. Driving over nets should be prohibited.
  • h. Walking on dry dulse or laver should be prohibited.
  • For example with kelp, alaria and other sea vegetables hung to dry:
    • Floor or ground under kelp and alaria racks should be as dust and dirt free as possible.
    • Sticks, clothespins, etc. used to hold drying plants should be clean,paint and preservative free, and cleared of prior harvest remains.
    • Plants that drop during drying and hanging should be discarded or rinsed quickly before re-hanging.
    • Outdoor drying area should be well upward of dirt roads or other sources of dust contaminants.
    • Drift from roadside spraying or agricultural spray should be avoided
After drying, specific measures should be taken to protect certified product from contaminates and to segregate it from any non-certified products including:
  • a. Plants should not be transported on tarps to storage and protected from floors and walls with tarps, cardboard, pallets or other clean materials.
  • b. Storage before packing off in bulk containers should be in well-ventilated, dust free environments, no animals or birds allowed.
  • c. All packing containers should be clean, dry and lined with food grade plastic or poly.
  • d. During compression into boxes, plants should be protected from direct contact with feet or other means of compression other than hands.
  • e. Plastic liner should completely surround packed plants before the cover is closed. Covers should be marked “organic” immediately with lot numbers.
  • f. Storage of bulk boxes of organic product should be clearly marked and segregated from any other plants processed organically.
  • g. Storage area should be clean, dry cool and rodent free.
  • h. Moisture content of bulk packed plants should not be so high that molds could develop -- somewhere between 5-20% depending on the species.
Specific measures should be taken to insure certified plants are not contaminated during the packaging process including:
  • a. If dried plants need more moisture before bagging, re-hydration should be done in a clean, ambient environment.
  • b. The culling process should take place on a clean, washable surface in good light.
  • c. Weighing scale pans should be stainless steel or other non-corroding washable material.
  • d. All product handling and production hygiene should conform to state regulations
  • e. Bags into which plants are placed should be new, of food grade material and provide a complete protective seal.
  • f. Bags should be stored in clean, lightproof cases in a cool, dry area before shipment or sale.
  • g. All bags, cases and master cases should be clearly marked “organic,”given a lot number and segregated from all non-certified products.

Preparation, grinding and collection of ground plants should all be accomplished without introducing possible contaminates into certified material. Bagging and storage should clearly separate certified ground plants from any other ground material. For example:
  • a. Non-ground certified plants should be carefully inspected for hidden shells, dried brine shrimp, sand, stones and any other visual contaminates before grinding.
  • b. Mill interior, sifter interior and any connecting pipes should be checked periodically and cleaned at least seasonally for rust, dust, mold or other contaminates.
  • c. If mill and/or sifter have been used for non-organic materials, the mill operator should develop a method of cleansing the system before processing organic material.
  • d. Sifted material should be caught in clean containers that are covered once full.
  • e. Final bagging should be in clean, moisture-proof, food grade containers that are clearly marked “organic,” given a lot number and stored apart from non-organic product.
Roasting and smoke should be carried out without exposing certified material to any sources of contamination and organic product must be clearly separated from non-organic at all times. For example:
  • a. Roasting pans and oven should be clear of all possible contaminates as well as any prior non-certified production.
  • b. Smoke racks and smokehouse should be clean of all possible contaminants as well any prior non-certified production.
  • c. No other treatment than exposure to smoke of naturally occurring materials should be allowed.
  • d. Careful culling out of all foreign material and any visual contaminates should precede the roasting and smoking process.
  • e. Roasted and smoked certified products should be carefully stored in closed, moisture resistant, food grade containers marked “organic” and kept separate from non-organic product.
  • Each processor should be inspected annually.
  • Each processor should maintain accurate records tracking all certification products from harvest or purchase to final disposition.
  • Each harvester who supplies processor may be inspected randomly by OCIA inspectors at their discretion.
  • Each processor should obtain a questionnaire annually from each harvester.
A management questionnaire should be completed annually by harvesters to provide the following:
  • a. Description of species to be harvested, including rough map of beds.
  • b. History of harvesting activity for each species in territory/beds.
  • c. Planned harvest for current season.
  • d. Sources of possible pollution in territory (non-point and point).
  • e. Means of separating out contaminates before, during and after harvest, including transport, drying, storage, boxing, etc.
Processors should provide the following:
  • a. Support harvesters’ efforts to complete their Management Questionnaire and comply with OCIA.
  • b. Facilitate inspections and certification.
  • c. Pay seasonal visits to harvesters.
  • d. Complete any required testing in a timely manner.
  • Type and extent of testing, if any, should be determined by OCIA in consultation with harvesters and processors and conform to OCIA’s general standards.
  • Any suspected contamination of product should require testing, which may include heavy metals, herbicide and pesticide screens, hydrocarbons, microbiological -- to be determined by the local certifier.
  • Any voluntary testing by either harvesters or processors should be submitted to OCIA’s inspector and included in the annual management report.
  • Efforts should be made by both harvesters and processors to minimize the need for testing by maximizing care in selection and handling of plants at all times.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Wakame In Soup!

Last night I made a fairly normal pot of vegetable chicken soup. But instead of adding land greens (like spinach or chard) at the end like I would normally do, I added wakame for an iodine and vitamin boost. It was super easy. Here's what I did:

1. Rinsed under cold water 5 pieces of dried wakame
2. Soaked the pieces in a bowl of water for 20 minutes
3. Drained the bowl and removed the wakame- it really grew in size!
4. Cut out the midrib (its distinctive and harder than the rest of the frond)
5. Cut the wakame into bite size pieces
6. Added it to the soup when it had 15 minutes left to cook

The soup smelled a little bit more "sea-like," but I didn't notice any difference in the taste. I really liked the texture + color of the wakame. I could have saved the soaking water to add to the broth, but I wasn't sure if it would jive with my soup recipe.

Hello My Name Is : Irish Moss/Carageenan

images from

Irish Moss or carageenan is a species of red algae that grows in the rocky areas of the Atlantic (Europe & North America). It has a distinctly salty "sea" taste.

Growth: Irish Moss grows to a height of one foot, covering rocks and other surfaces.

Chondrus crispus, Cairgean, pearl moss, carrageen moss, seamuisin, curly moss, curly gristle moss, Dorset weed, jelly moss, sea moss, white wrack

History: It is the oldest sea vegetable used in industry

Nutrition: Rich in iodine, protein (10%), sulfur, vitamin A, iron, sodium, magnesium, calcium

Uses: It is used as a thickener and stabilizer in milk products (ice cream) and in processed foods (lunch meat & burgers). Also used in the brewing of beer to remove impurities in the beer. Its also used as a stabilizer is air fresheners, leather industry, paint industry, pharmaceutical industry, textile industry, and toothpaste.

Check for small shells or dried sea life and rinse before dropping into a cooking pot. Irish Moss requires an hour of cooking to soften it and becomes gelatinous after cooked.

Irish Moss Jelly
Carrageen Peppermint Cream:
Raw Cacao Mousse: (scroll down to bottom)
Sea Moss- Vegan No Sugar Drink
Carrageen Bramble Flan
Carrageen Moss Pudding from Belleville

Honey and Lemon Carrageen Pudding

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Hello My Name Is: Grapestone

photo from

Grapestone is a red algae and one of the least eaten, most unusual sea vegetables that is considered a delicacy. It is usually found in Chinese soups or stir fry and resembles a deep red, exotic mushroom.

Aliases: Gigartina papillata, mastocarpus papillatus

History: In Iceland it was cooked with flour and water and eaten as a sweetened pudding.

Nutrition: Vitamin C and trace elements

Uses: Used when creaminess is desired. Becomes creamy when cooked.

Preparation: Rinse under cool water for 1 or 2 minutes and then soak in cool water for 10 minutes. Drain immediately

Recipes: couldn't find any!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Sea Vegetable Cultivation in Indonesia

I recently found this video about sea vegetable cultivation in Indonesia. Although not a traditional cultivation mode (like land farming), sea vegetables are a new source of income for Indonesians. This is especially important because increased drought and over farming of the land has made traditional farming increasingly harder. Sea vegetables give these people chance to raise their standard of living.

Although this is great for the Indonesian economy, I'm concerned about water pollution, overcultivating, overharvesting, and their methods of growing. The seaweed cultivated in Indonesia is exported for use in cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, ice cream and other food fillers, and countless other things. Because sea vegetables easily absorb pollution from the water, I'm concerned about the water pollution in these areas since Indonesia has a lot of environmental issues related to overpopulation and poverty.

I was also concerned to see that they are using plastic bottles to suspend the sea vegetables in the water for better growth and (maybe) easier harvesting. I wonder if sea vegetables can also absorb plastic particles?

Friday, November 7, 2008

Hello My Name Is: Bladderwrack

images from

Bladderwrack, is a brown algae easily recognizable by its small gas filled vesicles that occur in pairs.

Fucus vesiculosus, black tang, rockweed, bladder Fucus, sea oak, black tany, fucus tips, cut weed and rock wrack

Growing habitat: Bladderwrack grows on the northern Atlantic and Pacific coasts of the United States and on the northern Atlantic coast and Baltic coast of Europe.

History: Bladderwrack was the original source of iodine, discovered in 1811 and used to treat goitre (caused by iodine deficiency). Bladderwrack was also historically used in a healing tea.

Nutrition: Bladderwrack has varying levels of iodine and is thought to be a good source of iodine. Contains magnesium, protein, vitamins A,C,K, and E, bromine, zince, iron, potassium.
Uses: Great in quick cooking dishes. Do not use in long cooking dishes (will turn gelatinous).

Preparation: Rinse under cool running water for a minute and then soak in water for 20 minutes. Chop/use according to specific recipe.

Bladderwrack Tea

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Hello My Name Is : Sea Palm

images from

Sea Palm is a brown algae that is very mild tasting with a soft and crunchy texture. As its name suggests, it looks similar to a mini palm tree.

Aliases: Postelsia palmaeformis, palm seaweed

Growing habitat: Sea palm thrives in tubulent waters of the North America, harvested by hand from April thru June. The more turbulent the waters may increase nutrient absorbtion, and reduce competition for rock position. Sea Palm grows on rocks attached by its root-like holdfast. It spends most of its time growing exposed to air due to its long stipe (stem). It can grow to about 2 ft in height and at the top of its stipe grows about 100 leaf-like blades. When in the formation stages, sea palm is green but eventually turns to brown as it matures.

Important Notes: It is illegal to recreationally harvest this sea vegetable. Cutting the stipe prior to spore production can threaten populations. Licensed harvesters use a specific method that reduces impact. Due to their restricted habitat, short life span, and limited power to regenerate, they cannot tolerate heavy harvesting.

History: Before Europeans entered the area, Sea Palm was know by the natives as Kakgunu-chale. It was first scientifically described by Franz Josef Ruprecht in 1852.

Nutrition: Good source of Vitamin A & D, other than that there seems to be little nutritional analysis mentioned anywhere

Uses: Both the blades (leaf-like) and the stipe (less commonly) are edible. Sea palm is delicious raw or sautéed and added to soups or salads.

Preparation: Cover sea palms with water and soak for 20 minutes. Separate the fronds from the stipe and use according to recipe.

Sea Palm Lasagna
Sea Palm with Peanuts
Sea Palm and Cucumber Salad

Sea Palm Salad

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Companies To Produce Biodiesel From Seaweed in Italy

Italian biodiesel producers led by the Union of Biodiesel Producers have found a way to use seaweed instead of corn/rapeseed to produce biodiesel. The efforts are targeted to finish in 2010, and with that would come the building of a manufacturing plant.

The producers hope that using seaweed will eliminate the debate over using food to produce biodiesel. In light of my research and decisions to start adding sea vegetables as food, I would disagree that this new process moves away from that debate. Treehugger notes that the Italians might actually be using algae and not seaweed, since the word for algae and seaweed are the same in Italian. If they are in fact using algae and not "seaweed" or "sea vegetables," then this would be a great solution. If not, the problem still exists.

And that brings us to a clarification of the difference between algae, seaweed and sea vegetables:
  • Algae is "a large and diverse group of simple, typically autotrophic organisms, ranging from unicellular to multicellular forms (about 30,000 species)
  • Seaweed is a loose term used for "macroscopic, multicellular, benthic marine algae" (includes red, brown, green algae) (courtesy of Wikipedia
  • Sea Vegetable is the term for edible seaweeds (algae) that are used as vegetables
I find it really interesting to keep learning the numerous uses for seaweed/sea vegetables and can only imagine the uses we haven't yet discovered.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Hello My Name Is : Laver

images from

Laver, (Wild Nori) is harvested in the North Atlantic (Ireland, Wales, Maine) and in Northern California. Unlike nori, its not sold in sheets. Fresh, it looks lettuce-like.

Aliases: Porphyra umbilicalis, P. leucosticta, p. perforata, P. Nereocystis, wild nori, purple laver, sloak, karango, chichoy

Growing habitat: Laver grows in cold, mid-intertidal zones of the Northern & Southern hemispheres. It grows off of rocks or rockweed.

Nutrition: High in B vitamins, iodine, protein, (30% protein), vitamins E + C

History: Laver cultivation is believed to go back to ancient times in Wales and Scotland. Laverbread (made from laver) is a traditional welsh delicacy.

Uses: used in laverbread, can be added to steamed veggies to add extra taste, can be pan/oven roasted and added to other dishes

Preparation: If roasting, make sure to pull apart the leaves and check closely for tiny shells (remove these). Roast in an 250–300° F oven for 5 to 8 minutes on a cookie sheet or heat in a cast iron skillet on medium high heat until crispy.

Laver Mushroom Tofu Scramble

Wild Laver Onion Omelette

Toasted Dried Sea Laver
Buckwheat Noodles With Laver

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Hello My Name Is : Alaria

images from

Alaria (ah-LAR-ree-yah) is a kelp that is a salty version of wakame that grows in Ireland, Great Britian, Greenland, Scotland, Iceland, Faroes, Norway, France, Helgoland, Netherlands, Alaska, Labrador, Maine and Massachusetts. It is used in soups, stews, casseroles and usually comes cut into strips.

Aliases: Wild Atlantic Wakame, Alaria esculenta {N. Atlantic}, bladderlocks, tangle, winged kelp,

Growing habitat: Its olive brown fronds grow btw 6 and 12 feet and it has a midrib with wavy membranes. Alaria generally grows on rock in very exposed places often forming a band at low water and in the shallow subtidal, but also occurring in tidal pools in the lower shore.

Nutrition: Its comparable to sesame seeds in terms of its calcium content, has high vitamin A (similiar to spinanch), good iron, potassium, and magnesium.

Uses: Can be used interchangeably with wakame (but use 1/3 less alaria than wakame). It also takes longer than wakame to cook. Maine Coast Sea Vegetables has more info here.

Preparation: Alaria requires a lot of soaking and rinsing to tenderize. Soak for 30 minutes, drain water and then soak again for another 30 minutes.

Alaria Miso Soup
Alaria Seafood Chowder
Rice Tomato Soup with Alaria

Grilled Oysters Wrapped in Alaria
Alaria Chips

Friday, October 31, 2008

Sea Vegetables from the Perspective of a Natural Doctor (ND)

I was privileged to talk with Dr. Cecilia Hart, a great Natural Doctor (ND) in Berkeley today to get her perspective on sea vegetables. I feel like getting a range of medical opinions on eating sea vegetables is helpful to myself and (hopefully) others. Here's a transcript of our talk.

Q: Who do you recommend eat sea vegetables?
A: Everyone, but the thing with sea weed and digesting it is you have to start with a small amount. So usually titrate the doses. It takes your body awhile to produce the enzymes to break it down. This is similar to when vegetarians start eating meat again and need to start slowly. So start with a small amount and then increase the doses. Sea weed contains a lot of iodine which is particularly helpful with certain breast disorders, overall breast health, and thyroid health.

Q: What exactly does eating sea vegetables do for the thyroid?
A: Iodine is a key factor in the conversion of the less active form of the thyroid hormone to the more active form. If you don't have enough iodine, you can't make that conversion very well.

Q: Can you talk a little about iodine in terms of hypothyroid conditions?
A: There are many reasons why someone would have hypothyroid disorders. One of the reasons could be an iodine deficiency because its needed for that conversion.

Q: How much would you recommend someone with a history of hypothyroidism eat sea vegetables?
A: It would really depend on what the numbers are from the labs that test for thryoid levels.

Q: Do sea vegetables have more nutrients in them than land vegetables?
A: They have more iodine and are pretty highly dense in protein compared to other green vegetables. They are also dense in calcium, iron, etc. They contain 10-20% protein which is pretty dense. Nori has 50% protein, which is pretty amazing. They have good eye antioxidants (luteins) for eye health. Eating sea weed helps with detoxification and helps to bind heavy metals.

Q: Hijiki has been found to contain a high level of inorganic arsenic. Does the body absorbs this? Do you recommend that people eat hijiki?
A: If we know that it is high in inorganic arsenic, we should NOT eat it.

Q: What do you suggest in terms of "organic" vs non organic certified sea vegetables?
A: I don't really understand the certification, but I would definitely try to avoid consuming heavy metals.

Q: Do you recommend that people eat them whole in soups vs. a supplement or tincture?
A: Cooking is always better, but its not always realistic for some people, so that's why we have the tinctures and supplements.

Q: Are there any people that you would recommend NOT eating sea vegetables?
A: Certain people who have too much iodine already like in hyperthyroid situations.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Hello My Name Is : Arame

photos from

Arame, (AIR-a-may) meaning "rough maiden" is a species of kelp that grows on the Pacific coast of north and South America as well as in Japan and China. Because it has a mild, sweet flavor and is a good introduction to sea vegetables. It comes in thing threadlike brown strands and superficially resembles hijiki.

Aliases: Eisenia bicyclis, E. arborea

Growing habitat: Arame grows below the tide line. It has 12 inch long wavy fronds that are about 1/2 inch wide and grows on the rocks below the water line. The fronds are usually sliced into thin thead like strips that make them look a lot like hiziki.

History: Arame was traditionally harvested my Japanese women divers

Nutrition: Arame is a rich source of calcium, zinc and iodine.

Preparation: Soak dried arame in fresh water for 5-15 minutes and drain. Avoid oversoaking because arame can quickly lose its flavor.

Uses: Can be substituted for hijiki in any recipe. Can be added to soups/stew, sauteed with land vegetables, steamed, or used in salads.

Hiziki or Arame with Carrots and Onions
Japanese Arame Salad
Kale with Seaweed, Sesame and Ginger

Arame Salsa
Arame with Dried Lotus Root
Arame Stuffed Mushroom Caps

Monday, October 27, 2008

Am I too Cautious?

I'm starting to wonder if I'm being a little too methodical about this process? On one hand I want to educate myself about sea veggies before I start chowing down, but on the other hand I'd like to start introducing them into my diet. I'm getting to the point where I feel informed enough to be comfortable eating them, but I also feel like I could research + sift through secondary research forever! The main health concern questions have been answered through my research, so I think I might be ready for more cooking to happen...

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Hello My Name Is: Hijiki

photo from

Hijiki, (he-JEE-key) is a porous brown sea vegetable that is not commonly seen on the menus of Japanese restaurants since it's used mostly for homely home cooking. It comes in dried form and when reconstituted swells to about 5 times its original weight. Hiziki takes years to mature.

Aliases: hiziki, Hizikia fusiforme, chin tsai, nongmichae, pig's foot vegetable

Growing habitat: Hiziki grows wild in shallow waters on the rocky coastlines of Japan, Korea, and China.

Nutrition: Hjiki has more calcium than other dried food source as well as having a high protein count. It is also high in fiber, calcium, potassium, vitamin B2 (riboflavin), and magnesium

History: Hiziki has been a traditional part of the Japanese diet for centuries. It is believed to enhance hair quality, strengthening it, and adding luster. Many Japanese credit eating of hiziki for their lustrous black hair and Japanese girls were told to consume bowlfuls of it.

Uses: Best eaten with other SVs,

Preparation: Dont' start with too much since it will quadruple in size! Wash under cold water and soak for an hour, rinse well (make sure to get rid of any sand) and discard soaking water. Be careful to press out any excess water. To use in grain dishes, stuffing, salads, burgers, or croquettes, boil the hiziki for 15 to 20 minutes prior to combining with the other ingredients. For hiziki and vegetable side dishes, cook the hiziki for 25 to 35 minutes with vegetables and season with Shoyu Soy Sauce near the end of cooking.

Additional Notes:
see post about arsenic & hijiki. Four countries have issued warnings about hijiki, but none have banned it.

Simmered Hijiki Recipe
Chang Chang Hijiki Salad
Hiziki Sauté
Braised Hiziki with Sweet Potatoes & Black Soybeans

Saturday, October 25, 2008

An Addendum to Arsenic & Hijiki Post

I found some additional information that might help with the decision to eat/not eat hijiki. On the New Zealand Food Safety Authority's (NZFSA) website, I found this info:
Hijiki seaweed was added to New Zealand’s high risk foods list after it was found to contain levels of inorganic arsenic that were higher than the regulatory level. Exposure to low levels of organic or inorganic arsenic is not a health concern, however consumers are advised not to eat large amounts of hijiki seaweed.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Arsenic In Sea Vegetables ... What Do You Think?

Arsenic Warning Poster | Source: archives of the USDA APHIS Pest Survey Detection and Exclusion Laboratory

Early in my introduction to sea veggies it was suggested that I should do some research about the arsenic levels in SVs. Sea vegetables are like a sponge — they have the ability to absorb minerals from the water and to hold onto them in their cell walls. This is the reason why sea vegetables contain more good minerals than most land vegetables. On the other hand, this means that they can also absorb contaminants in the water such as arsenic, lead and cadmium. For this reason, sea vegetables are often used as a monitor for how polluted waters have become. (More on the topic of SVs as a monitor for water pollution in a later post)

Inorganic arsenic is found in pesticides, paint, and other manufactured chemical compounds. Its is highly toxic and carcinogenic. Organic arsenic however, is not connected to health problems in humans and is found in most sea vegetables & seafood.

Among all sea vegetables hijiki in particular absorbs the highest levels of inorganic arsenic. In 2001 the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) issued a fact sheet entitled, Inorganic Arsenic and Hijiki Seaweed Consumption. It was their recommendation in this fact sheet that consumers not eat hijiki at all because of its high levels of inorganic arsenic.

In this really interesting and thorough response, Eden Organics (a large SV supplier) presents these compelling arguments against the CFIA findings:
  • The Japanese Ministry of Health and Welfare posted a statement July 30, 2004 on the Internet stating that, "There are no records of cases of arsenic poisoning as a result of the arsenic content of sea vegetables."
  • The CFIA and the FSA failed to inform consumers that all of the negative research regarding inorganic arsenic was performed on various species of laboratory animals often injecting or feeding them very high amounts of pure inorganic arsenic chemically extracted from various sources. There are no cases of arsenic poisoning in either laboratory animals or humans who where fed hijiki, or any other sea vegetable in whole form, which contain many valuable nutrients and compounds such as organic arsenic, referred to as arsenosugars.
  • Several studies have demonstrated that organic arsenic compounds are changed to inorganic compounds during arsenic testing due to the highly acidic nature of the testing mediums used, specifically hydrochloric acid, sodium borohydride, methanol, nitric acid, sodium hydroxide and other chemicals, as well as micro waving. It is a common laboratory practice to soak sea vegetables in these acid compounds before and during testing.[ Organic arsenic is not reported to cause negative health]
  • Rather than being a source of heavy metals in the diet, sea vegetables have been shown to cleanse the body of heavy metals and other toxins. Alginate or alginic acid is a polysaccharide that is abundant in sea vegetables, especially brown sea vegetables including hijiki, wakame, kombu and arame.
At the end of their rebuttal they offer this advice to consumers which I tend to agree with given this new information:

As a distributor of several varieties of sea vegetables, including hijiki (hiziki) we feel confident, after reviewing all the documented scientific evidence, that EDEN Hiziki does not pose a health risk when eaten in moderation as part of a healthy balanced diet and when properly cleaned and soaked, as has been done in Japan for centuries. We would like to encourage our consumers to follow our package directions: "wash, soak for 15 minutes in warm water, drain, rinse well and discard the soaking water."
I personally trust the quality of their SVs and so I am comfortable eating hijiki once in awhile. I wouldn't neccessary make them a weekly staple though. My TCM (see my post about the radio call in show) also thought it was fine in moderation unless the individual had arsenic sensitivities. For everyone else, I would urge that people make their own decisions about eating hijiki or not. Maine Sea Coast Vegetables makes this statement that sums the situation up:

Because sea vegetables are as low on the scientific research priority list as they are on the food chain, we have to infer in part from studies of other food groups, as well as use our native intelligence and intuition.

More on the topic here.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Sydney's Seaweed: Dirtiest on Earth

photo from

I found this article, Sydney's Seaweed: Dirtiest on Earth today from April 08 that was pretty alarming. Due to water pollution, Sydney's seaweed was found to be concentrated with copper, lead and zinc. Because of this, small crustaceans that feed on the sea vegetables are dying! The sea vegetables absorb the heavy metals and when the crustaceans feed on them they can't tolerate the amounts.
"The habitats that we sampled within Sydney Harbour contain among the highest concentrations of metals yet identified in brown seaweeds," says study lead author, UNSW biologist, Dr David Roberts. "In seven of the 10 sample harbour sites, we measured copper concentrations in one seaweed species that exceeded levels known to threaten small crustaceans. These concentrations exceed all previously scientifically reported levels."
Luckily Sydney is NOT on the list of places that sell sea vegetables for human consumption. Even so, it is an indicator of how water pollution (through sea vegetables) is upsetting the natural eco system.

Monday, October 20, 2008

An Honest Confession

For me, this blog has been foremost about exploring sea vegetables as a viable, sustainable, and foragable food source. Most importantly, its been about doing this in a responsible way— without putting myself or anyone else who reads this blog in jeopardy of negative health consequences. For that reason I am doing as much research as I can before focusing on the eating part.

Because SVs aren't part of our traditional western diet, most people tend to have limited or no information about them to begin with. The info I've been finding has been through extensive web research, the limited supply of books about sea vegetables, and through first hand medical practitioner advice (both western + eastern). This information is scattered and has been at times, somewhat contradictory and confusing.

The overall hope is that getting my information from a wide range of sources will give me a better understanding of this topic. This understanding will inform my decisions about eating SVs and hopefully inform/inspire others.

So although this journey is not without its obstacles and frustrations, I'm still optimistic that what I find will be really valuable to myself and hopefully others. In short thanks for coming along on this journey with me!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Sea Vegetables on Call In Show

Calling in on the (TCM) radio show Thursday morning was really informative. The show was only an hour long, but the host (my TCM practioner) was really generous and talked to me for 15 minutes about sea vegetables! To listen to the show, visit this link and click on "The Balancing Point Podcast" up at the top and then the podcast link for 10/16/08.

Some answers to my questions:
  • Q: Who shouldn't eat sea vegetables?
    People who can't tolerate heavy metals (like arsenic) should avoid kelp SVs supplements. Supplements contain a more concentrated form of the vegetables and a more concentrated amount of arsenic. Even supplements from really high quality health food stores & companies have been found to have really high levels of arsenic in them.
  • Q: Where should people get sea vegetables?
    SV grown in Mendocino are really high quality even despite the local water pollution because of the direction of the tides. Also, try to get organic SVs if you can.
  • Q: What about water pollution?
    Try to get the dried/fresh SVs from the best sources you can, but don't worry too much about pollution if you're getting it from a reputable source (preferably west coast) unless you're taking supplements (see above).
  • Q: What about iodine in sea vegetables and overall health?
    70% of U.S. population (at least) are iodine deficient and every glandular part of the body needs iodine to function properly. Eating SVs help clear up iodine problems (listen to podcast for specifics). Iodine in SVs is better than iodine in salt which is hard to absorb and utilize by the body and not enough for the body tissues to remain healthy.
  • Q: In terms of thyroid problems how can SVs help?
    SVs can help hypo/hyperactive thyroids, but should be done under the care of a medical practioner. In small children, small amounts of SV (like in miso soup) are ok, but not iodine supplements.
  • Q: Cooked or raw?
    Cooked is better than raw and easier for most people to eat. SVs in soups are great because cooking + soaking tenderizes them.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

MSG in Sea Vegetables?

image from

When I first started looking for sea vegetables at grocery & health food stores, I was concerned because some of the kinds/brands I found (particularly the nori which is processed) said they contained mono sodium glutamate (MSG). MSG can cause some pretty bad symptoms in certain people. The most prominent symptoms are numbness at the back of the neck, gradually radiating to both arms and the back, general weakness and palpitations... all in all, not so good.

After poking around, I found that sea vegetables are the original food source that monosodium glutamate (MSG) was mass-produced from in the early 1900’s. Sea vegetables in their natural form, contain the amino acid glutamic acid. When this acid is broken down by cooking, it becomes glutamate. Stabilizing that with sodium (salt) creates mono sodium glutamate. MSG is now manufactured by a process using fermented molasses, wheat or corn.

But getting back to the important discussion here about sea vegetables and MSG, I found out that eating plants that naturally contain glutamic acid does NOT cause the adverse reactions that manufactured MSG causes. Here's a more detailed explanation of why:
Any small amounts of free glutamic acid that might be found in unprocessed, unadulterated, and/or unfermented, food will be L-glutamic acid, only, and will not typically cause adverse reactions in MSG-sensitive people. This should not be confused with the glutamic acid that occurs in or on food as a consequence of manufacture, which typically causes adverse reactions in MSG-sensitive people providing that they ingest amounts that exceed their tolerances for MSG.
BUT: products contained MSG only need to be labeled so if they contain manufactured MSG... so read the labels. If the package on your nori (or other sea vegetables) says it has MSG in it, don't buy it. (unless it specifically says its naturally occurring). They could have added it in the processing.

There's a really interesting article here about Professor Ikeda and how he created and patented MSG in 1909. Also an interesting article about how Asian cultures don't believe MSG is harmful here.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Sea Vegetables on the Radio!

If you're in the Bay Area on Thursday October 16th I'll be calling into THE BALANCING POINT : An Innovative Radio Talk Show About Traditional Chinese Medicine from 8:00 - 9:00 AM, KEST 1450 AM. The host of the show, John Nieters is my TCM practitioner and I have a bunch of questions about sea vegetables I want to ask him in relation to Traditional Chinese Medicine. Tune in...

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Hello My Name Is : Kombu

images from & &

Kombu (COME-boo) is a long brown and thick sea vegetable from the kelp family (genus Laminaria). It is an important ingredient in Japanese, Chinese and Korean cultures and an essential ingredient of dashi, a flavorful stock.

Aliases: konbu, dashima, laminaria

Growing habitat: It is found on almost every coast. All parts of the plant are used and the broad leaves grow up to thirty-three feet in length! Kombu is usually harvested in the summer with long hooked poles and dried in the sun.

rich in protein, calcium, iodine, magnesium, iron and folate. kombu also provides healing and soothing mucilages that coat the lower digestion tract relieving peri-anal inflammation, colitis, and constipation.

Kombu has been used in Japan dating back to the Jōmon period (from 14,000 BC to 400 BC). In the 1960's kombu arrived in the U.S. due to the influence of the macrobiotic diet. Currently in Japan, special boutiques sell nothing but kombu and kombu products, of which there are more than 300!

Uses: Kombu is very mild in flavor and can be added to soups, cooked with beans (helps tenderize them + add nutrients+ speed cooking time + make more digestible), eaten raw, pickled, crumbled up and used as a seasoning,

Preparation: Wash dried kombu under running water to eliminate any sand or extra salt (optional). Dried kombu needs to be simmered for at least 20 minutes to soften it and flavor the liquid. If used only for flavoring stock, the kombu itself is removed from the simmer liquid at the end of cooking and discarded.


Kombu Dashi (Traditional Japanese Soup Stock)

Sweet Wakame and Ginger Kale Salad
Noodles & Broth
Land and Sea Vegetable Salad

(Pickled) Garlic in Kombu Soy Sauce Tsukemono
Lightly Pickled Cucumbers and Wakame Sea Vegetable

Monday, October 13, 2008

Organic Sea Vegetables?

I've been wondering if there is such a thing as an "organic" sea veggie— and it turns out that there is! In 1992 Maine Coast Sea Vegetables was the first processor world-wide to receive organic certification for its sea veggie harvesting and handling procedures by the Organic Crop Improvement Association International (OCIA). What does being certified organic actually mean? Maine Coast Sea Vegetables answers that question on their site:
This means that each harvester must monitor their beds for sustainability. They must keep their freshly picked plants clear of possible contaminants throughout the harvest transport, drying and packing process. They are randomly inspected to insure compliance. We also test plants for contaminants that are water born, such as heavy metals, PCBs, herbicides, pesticides, E. coli, yeasts and molds.
Another site I found mentioned this in relation to what the organic certification means:
seaweed harvesting waters and sediment must be free of "significant contamination from residential, municipal, commercial, or industrial waste, emissions, tailings or affluent [sic]." They cannot be within twenty miles of a nuclear facility or three miles of an industrial or sewage discharge.
Some of the sites, like Emerald Cove Sea Vegetables had a few products that were certified organic by the Quality Assurance International (QAI). I had a hard time finding any official documentation about specifics on either of these certification organizations' sites. Stay tuned on that topic...

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Dulse Tapenade!

This is the first sea vegetable recipe that I've tried so far. I figured it would be wise to bulk up on info before I started integrating the sea veggies into my diet, but I couldn't resist making this recipe right away. Its really tasty and took me 5 minutes at most. I've been eating it spread on rice crackers or on bread. There is a slight fishy taste, so if you're not used to that (I'm not), it might take a little bit getting used to. You can read about dulse here.

The recipe came from the book, Sea Vegetable Celebration, and is also found here on Maine Coast Sea Vegetables' website.

Dulse Olive Tapenade

Serves 2–3


2 to 3 cloves of garlic
One 6 oz can pitted black olives, drained

1 Tbsp olive oil

1/3 cup Dulse Flakes

Put the garlic cloves, olives, oil and dulse in the work bowl of a food processor, and puree until smooth. Or you can squeeze the garlic in a press and hand chop the olives until very fine, then stir in the olive oil and dulse.

Per serving: Calories 115, Protein 1 g, Fat 15 g, Carbohydrates 4 g, Fiber 25 g, Calcium 59 mg, Sodium 536 mg

Friday, October 10, 2008

Hello My Name Is: Nori

images from &

Nori, (NOR-ee) processed (and farmed) red algae Porphyra is typically what westerners envision when they think of sea vegetables. It is used to roll suishi and onigri. It also has the highest protein of all sea vegetables (between 25-28% protein).

Growing habitat: Nori grows close to the shoreline in sheltered inlets that are infused with fresh water. It grows wild in many parts of the world but in the Far East it is exclusively cultivated. It is grown in the ocean attached to nets at the surface of the water and is mechanically harvested 45 days after it seeds. The algae is harvested and then made into sheets by a process of shredding and rack drying. Harvesting can be done either by hand or by suction machines.

Important Buying Info: The less expensive the nori, the lower quality it is. The highest quality nori is hand harvested. It can be bought raw or toasted. Cheap types of Nori are sometimes artifically dyed and chemically treated. Do not freeze nori— it becomes inedible when thawed.

high in fiber, protein, calcium, minerals, and vitamins A, B, C

Nori dates back to the 8th century and is now a two billion dollar industry in Japan

Uses: Nori is typically used to roll suishi or onigiri or as a garnish for soups. It can be eaten by itself as a snack. Nori is also used to feed saltwater aquarium fish and algae eaters such as hermit crabs.

Preparation: If you buy raw nori, you need to toast it before using (carefully over an open flame works) until it turns a bright green color. Otherwise roll or crumble it up!


Winter Nori Roll (raw & vegetarian)
Cucumber Nori Rolls

Nori Rice Salad

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Sea Weed Baths!

Ha! I stumbled upon this spa in Sebastopol, CA : Mermaid Spa and Seaweed Bath Shop that gives Seaweed baths, Seaweed Muscle Soothers, and Seaweed Body Wraps! I'll admit that I wouldn't mind trying one, but it seems a little ridiculous to be using "Micronized Mediterranean kelps" when there's plenty of kelp in California! Very strange...

Seaweed baths are traditional in Ireland dating back to Edwardian times. Here's some info on doing it yourself. If you're going to Ireland and want the real thing, check these out:

Kilcullen's Bath house
Cliff House Hotel

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Recreational Harvesting in California

I found this great article today by Alastair Bland and am still reading through all the interesting info in it. This is a section I wanted to share with everyone that I found particularly interesting about legal recreational harvesting of sea vegetables in California:

DIY kelp harvesting

Those interested in harvesting sea vegetables on their own may do so with nothing but a California fishing license and a very minimum of specialized equipment. The leafy ends of most algae and kelp are quite tender and make for the best eating; snip off the tips and leave the rest of the plant. Remember that state law forbids taking more than 10 wet pounds of seaweed per day per person.

As a general rule of thumb, most seaweeds are safe to eat. One variety, though, which resembles a feather boa, gives off a sulfury aroma, and when sun-dried, baked and eaten, it will fill your mouth with a thick, unpleasant burning paste that turns your teeth green. (Of course I've done it myself, and for days I dared not smile.)

Its was really interesting for me to learn that you need a CA fishing license in order to legally harvest sea vegetables as a recreational harvester! I checked the California Deparment of Fish and Game and it looks like someone would specifically need to get an Aquaculture Registration. Good to know... and especially good to know about the kind that turns your teeth green!