Seaweed has become a much more common food in the western world lately and that is a great thing as seaweed is a nutritional powerhouse. Although it is bountiful on the west coast very little of our local seaweed is ever consumed. We have several varieties of seaweed but one in particular is very easy to identify and it is also the best for eating (I think anyway). It’s called sea lettuce. If you are a seaweed eater you will enjoy this variety and salad, although if you are not it probably won’t convert you . It took me a long time to finally get out and gather seaweed, I am not sure why, but it was surprisingly easy to do. Sea lettuce is paper thin and either has long and dark leaves or shorter and light green leaves, reminiscent of ice berg lettuce. What makes sea lettuce easy to distinguish is that it is not only the most common on the west coast but really looks like the seaweeds that are typically served in dishes. Others include bull kelp, you know those large stinky whips you used to play with as kids, they are edible but yuck. Others look like grasses and various other shapes and sizes. Sea lettuce is found in tide pools attached to rocks and its leaves sway in the ocean currents. Just a bucket and a pair of scissors is all that is needed to harvest it. Simply remove the leaves and they will grow right back. Add a little sea water to your bucket and drop the leaves right in, it’s that easy. Harvesting at low tide is of course a good idea. Also, although this is not a heavily gathered forage its a good idea to leave some plants fully intact as to not over harvest. Its not a good idea to pick floating seaweed out of the water or off the beach because it is not fresh. choose pristine beaches (as most are) to gather sea lettuce from. Seaweed contains a variety of micro and trace minerals that are essential for human health but it can also pick up heavy metals if they come from polluted waters.
There are several ways to prepare your sea lettuce. If you want to eat it fresh the day of or one day after harvest is your chance. seaweed also dries and stores very well. It can be made into seaweed snacks or dried and crushed into crumbles for later use. Sea Lettuce looks fragile but it is actually quite durable. Add sea lettuce to a large bowl and fill with water and strain out any sand or grit. To use fresh chop the leaves into smaller pieces and it’s ready to go. To store simply lay out the leaves on a towel and let dry over night and up to two nights to make sure the seaweed is totally dried out. To preserve sea lettuce flakes just crumble dry seaweed with hands. These can easily be rehydrated at a later date. To make seaweed snacks sprinkle sea lettuce strips with seasoning before drying out and leave whole. Store flakes or snacks in an airtight container.
Sea snack seasoning
3 parts salt
2 parts onion powder
1 part pepper
4 small handfuls of sea lettuce seaweed or substitute wakame flakes
pickled radish (recipe follows)
4 tbsp white wine vinegar
1 tbsp maple syrup
1/2 tsp salt
This recipe makes four small salads. To make dressing combine salt, syrup, and vinegar in a bowl and whisk. If seaweed is fresh add it directly into dressing and stir. If it is dry let the seaweed sit in cold water for five minutes before straining it then add to dressing.
Peel the cucumber by shaving a slice, skipping a spot and then shaving a slice so you have stripes running down it, this is for fanciness. Chop cucumber into round slices and line a small plate. Cut a chunk off a red onion and mince. Add sea lettuce with its dressing to cucumbers. Next add radishes, and sprinkle red onion on top of salads.
wide mouth pint jar
a small bundle of radishes
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup water
1 tsp mixed whole pickling spices (pepper, coriander, mustard seed)
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp maple syrup
The pickled radishes need to be made ahead, but it is just as simple to make as any quick pickle. I always have vinegar on hand as well as the pickling spices in case I get the urge to pickle. The radish is probably the easiest garden vegetable to grow and one of the quickest to harvest. Its density and strong flavor make for a terrific pickled vegetable.
Slice the radishes into round medallions. Stack them and then slice into matchsticks. Add the slices, vinegar, water, spices and salt to a small pan and bring to a simmer. Remove from heat and stir in syrup. Let rest for about 20 minutes before putting in a glass container or pint mason jar and allow to cool in fridge.