Not every food from the sea has tentacles, shells, or fins.  Even vegetarians can benefit from sustainable ocean harvest. Seaweed, or marine alga, is found all over the world, and has fed humankind for millennia.   Of the thousands of species of seaweed that are known to exist, at least 110 of them are edible, and none is known to be poisonous.  Marine algae are one of the richest plant-based sources of calcium, and excellent sources of iodine; different varieties also contain mineral nutrients such as potassium, magnesium, sodium, phosphorus, iron, zinc, selenium, and others, as well as high levels of protein in some, e.g. spirulina.

Here’s a quick picture quiz – identify these common species!  (Answers at the bottom).

The American diet has received most of its culinary seaweed culture from Japan, Korea, and China, where seaweed cultivation operations are major industries.  While most Americans are familiar with wrapping sushi rolls in brittle sheets of nori, not everyone is aware that many desserts and gels use agar agar as a vegetarian gelatin substitute.  Agars have the advantage of being able to solidify while warm, and don’t require refrigeration in order to set.

If you’re curious about seaweed foods but not quite ready to take the leap to eating a salad of something that looks like it washed up on the beach, try kelp pickles first.  They’re just as zingy and tasty as those made from cucumbers or other more familiar garden vegetables grown in dirt.  They’re also just as simple to make.

Kelp Pickles

You will need:

  • 5 quarts bull kelp
  • 2 cups onions, thinly sliced
  • 5 cups vinegar
  • 5 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp ground cloves
  • 1 tsp celery seeds
  • 2 tsps mustard seeds
1.  You can harvest your own kelp on the beach; my source says that the best picking time is in May and June, but you can find it year-round in many places along the coast.  Don’t pick kelp that have white splotches, as they’re over the hill.  Rinse them well, but you don’t need to peel or soak them.  Cut the “hair” off the heads; the best pickles come from the bulb and stem.  Chop them into the size pickles you’d like.
2.  Combine everything but the kelp and onions in a large soup pot, then add the vegetables and bring to a boil.
3.  Pack them into sterilized jars and then process for 10 minutes in boiling water.  Alternatively, you can pack your jars and then use a canner – follow the canner’s instructions for processing.
4.  Let stand for about a month for the best flavor before eating.  Makes about 8 pints.
Answers to the seaweed quiz – clockwise, from the top left:
arame, dulse, nori, wakame, hijiki, agar agar
The Other Seafood
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2 thoughts on “The Other Seafood

  • June 23, 2009 at 3:11 pm

    Try Kelpalilli – instead of cukes, use kelp ! Good relish, recipes are in Ball or Kerr books….
    I use a sweet pickle recipe like yours, which is good, but am looking for a zingy dill type recipe. Haven’t really liked the dills I’ve done, although others do.

  • June 23, 2009 at 3:30 pm

    Ooops ! I meant that kelp should be used in place of green tomatoes, not cukes. Should have read the recipe before I commented…


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