Seaweed dishes are well known in Asian dishes, especially Japanese cuisine, but in some places it is a really, really traditional food in the Native American diets, especially in the pacific northwest, where common translations of "Indian names" include "Kelp" and "Seaweed." A well known Kwakwaka'Wakw (Kwakiutl) artist/carver's name is Willie Seaweed, for example. Tribes all along the west coast harvested and prized all types of seaweed for a number of different uses, including food. On the east coast it is well known that to this day, rockweed is used in clambakes, whether they are the traditional beach pit oven affairs, or in a big pot on top of the stove...gotta have the seaweed!! Some freshwater "seaweeds" have also been used as food, with Spirulina, by far being the most important; that was an everyday food source for commoners in the Aztec Empire--Spaniards called it Queso de indio or "Indian Cheese."
|Makah woman gathering seaweed.|
Seaweeds are actually complex algae that come in three broad categories: red, green or brown. One of the most prized seaweeds for gathering in the pacific northwest is a type of Pacific laver, or so-called "wild nori," for which processed Japanese style nori sheets are made from and can be substituted. There is also a type of Alaria found in the Pacific that is also called "wild nori." It was a common ingredient in vegetable and green side-dishes, as well as going into soups and stews that commoning contained seafood. Kelp can be found on both coasts. I have personally collected wild kelp in Maine and have kept under fridgeration, unwrapped, for some weeks, with the salt content drying it out and preserving it. Seaweed, completely unique, to it's islands has always been a large part of Hawaiian diet, and it's use in various forms is recorded all over the south Pacific. Limu and Ogo salads are very popular in Hawaiian restaurants and cookbooks.
|Edible seaweeds from Mountain Rose Herbs|
Although seaweeds appear to the be ultimate sustainable wild, and sometimes even cultivated, edible, it is not without problems in this area. On the west coast in highly invasive aquarium mutated seaweed has begun to invade areas in southern California. An invasion form of Kelp and invaded water from San Francisco Bay to New Zealand. On the east coast, especially in Maine, there is an issue of over-harvesting, sometimes on privately owned land with non-trespass signs, and publicly administered parks where collection is prohibited, rockweed for shipment to supplement companies for processing. So think about that the next time you might want to feel OK about seaweed supplements. Also, there is a very invasive red seaweed from Japan that first showed in waters off southern New England that threatens the whole east coast, including over-gathered rockweed. Even in the Hawaiian Islands, with their relative isolation, is having large problems with invasive seaweed, owed to the heavy boat traffic in and out it's waters from the Indian Ocean, despite their locations thousands of miles from other land. One variety, Hypnea, was introduced on purpose and has become highly problematic. The problems there are being tackled with native Sea Urchins bred to eat the invasive algae. Again, seaweed has be caught up in the whole bio-fuel craze, the same as other "discarded" plants and "weeds."
|Hawaiian Limu, an edible red seaweed|
Edible Seaweeds In New World Oceans:
|Alaria [Photo from Maine Coast Sea Vegetables a wonderful company that harvests seaweed in the Atlantic with great care and respect.]|
|Bladderwrack aka Fucus vesiulosus found in upper Atlantic coasts and Greenland, high in iodine!|
|Carola aka Red Kelp, found all along the Pacific coast from Alaska to South America and southern Polynesia waters. Principally eaten in Chile and Peru.|
|Cochayuyo in Chilean market. The name is Quechuan (Incan), this is a type of Bull Kelp. Used in Indigenous salads and stews. Also found in waters around New Zealand.|
|Dulse found all over the north Atlantic, but primarily eaten in any quantities in the British Isles|
|Eucheuma a Pacific seaweed member of the Red family, one of the wild seaweeds that is farmed on a large scale, though this has caused some environmental issues. The seaweed actually appears green, and it a traditional food in The Philippines.|
|Ulva instestinalis a type of Sea Lettuce found mostly in the US, including Alaska|
|Gelidiella a pan global seaweed of the red family, shown acerrosa from Kalyx for sale. Used to make agar agar.|
|Limu or Ogo this is a very important seaweed in Oceana and is eaten from the Hawiian Islands to The Philippines, it is also abundant on the Pacific coasts of South America, where it is cultivated. One of the world's most interesting edible seaweeds. Also called Gulaman.|
|True Irish Moss|
|Sargussum this includes native Gulfweed in FLA and a type of Limu in the Pacific.|
|Ogo used to make a very traditional Poke in Hawaii|
|Sea or Plant Caviar a tribal and traditional food in The Philippines|
|Limu Kala from Hawaii|
|Sea Lettuce, there are tons of species in this genus! This one is from the Maine Coast Sea Vegetables online catalog it is Ulva lactuca|
|Spiral Wrack found in the northern parts of the Atlantic coast|
|Kelp(s)--this is Tasmanian Kelp|