Seaweeds are one of nature's true wonder foods!
They are one of the most nutritionally dense plants on the planet and also the most abundant source of minerals in the plant kingdom as they have access to all the nutrients in the ocean.
Ironbound Island Seaweed is dedicated to the sustainable harvesting of wild seaweeds from the cold, clean water of the Schoodic Peninsula and surrounding islands of eastern Maine.
The season begins in spring when the seaweeds are at their peak, well before the trees have begun to leaf out.
Work begins with the early morning low tides, often leaving before sunrise for the hour long journey by wooden boat to the outer islands.
The edible seaweeds thrive there on ledges that break just above the water line on the new and full moon tides.
From the boat the seaweed workers scramble onto exposed rocks and harvest waist high in the waves, taking care to leave plenty of pants for regeneration.
The harvest is focused and intense; soon the tide returns swallowing the ledges and covering beds.
The seaweed gets hung in the sun and it dries withing 36 hours. On foggy days the seaweed is moved to a wood heated drying house.
The whole leaves are then carefully packaged to bring you a sweet, dark seaweed unsurpassed in vitamins and minerals.
Palmaria palmata, also known as dulse, grows on north-facing cliffs and shady crevices. The blood red plants branch into many small lobed fronds and dry to a deep purple.
It has a long tradition in the cuisines of many Northern European cultures.
Dulse is rich in potassium, iron, iodine and trace elements.
Dulse is usually enjoyed as is, raw. It is stored with just a bit of dampness, to make it soft for snacking. If your dulse dries out, just leave the bag open overnight in a moist place.
It’s also very versatile in cooking and lends it’s rich ocean flavor to a wide variety of dishes from salads to soups to stir fries.
Raw dulse adds another dimension to any green SALAD with brilliant purple color and tangy salty flavor. Simply tear or cut the dulse into bite size pieces and mix it in.
Dulse is perfect in CHOWDERS, especially prized by vegetarians for its rich seafood flavor. Begin by sautéeing two onions, two cups celery, one cup dulse, salt, and spices for a few minutes. Then cut three potatoes and add to 8 cups of nut milk or water. Cook for twenty minutes, then puree about half of the soup in a blender before serving.
Wild Atlantic Nori, Porphyra umbilicalus is a relative of the Japanese sushi nori.
It’s known as laver in the British Isles, where it’s traditionally baked into breads and used as a vegetable.
Ironbound Island's wild whole leaf nori is dried in its natural crinkled state, not aqua-cultured and heat processed into sheets like sushi nori.
Wild nori grows on wave beaten rocks on exposed beaches. The plants are just one cell thick, but show extreme resilience in the surf. At low tide, the plants lie plastered on the rock ledges in pink, purple, and black hues. They dry in the sun to a lustrous black.
Nori is rich in protein, vitamins A, C, E, and B (including the highest level of B vitamins in seaweeds) and trace minerals.
Wild Atlantic nori has complex flavor, both and nutty and slightly sweet. It is delicious in soups and roasted and crumbled as a condiment.
Nori can be dry roasted in a 200 degree oven or a hot skillet for a few minutes and then crumbled over rice, soba noodles, vegetables, and salads.
Laminaria longicruris, also known as Atlantic kelp, thrives in fast flowing subtidal waters. Kelp beds resemble a multi-story forest, with older plants floating on the surface on low tides and first year plants protected underneath. The stipes attach to the rocky bottom and can be over thirty feet long. Its olive-colored leafy fronds commonly reach over six feet.
Ironbound Island cust healthy plants at their peak in April and May, leaving younger plants to regenerate. Atlantic kelp is related to kombu, but more tender and faster cooking.
Some harvesters market L. longicruris as kombu. Ironbound Island prefers to offer both L. digitata, which is most similar to Japanese kombu, and Atlantic kelp, and let the cooks decide. In general kombu is used for winter cooking, and kelp in the summer and for faster cooking dishes. Kelp is loaded with vitamins and minerals, and naturally tenderizes food it is cooked with.
A delicious all purpose SOUP STOCK can be made by soaking one six inch strip of kelp in four cups of water. Let the kelp soak in the water beforehand, or simply simmer the pot for ten minutes. Remove the kelp and cut it into bite size pieces; it can be added to the soup later with other land vegetables. The kelp can also be left in for a heartier broth.
Kelp tenderizes BEANS and gives them a thick delicious broth. Add a three inch strip of kelp per cup of dry beans to the cooking water. Tear or snip the kelp into bite size pieces so it dissolves into gravy as the beans cook. Sauté onions, garlic, salt, and spices in oil and add to dish.
ROASTED KELP is delicious used as a garnish on top of salads, vegetables grains, and pasta. Begin by tearing or snipping the kelp into small pieces. Roast the kelp at 25o degrees for three to five minutes, or fry in an oiled pan until crisp.
Laminaria digitata, also known as Atlantic kombu, occupies the most turbulent niche in the ecosystem of ledge and sea, thriving in constant swells and surf.
Digitata has a monumental ability to cling to the rocks as the full force of the ocean flows through their fingers. It is the deepest growing edible seaweed, and is only accessible a few days out of every month on the lowest new and full moon tides. The plants dry to a near black and are loaded with minerals, vitamins and trace elements.
Kombu is appreciated for its high levels of iodine, calcium, potassium, iron, carotene and the B vitamins, to name a few. The slight sweet background is manitol, a natural sugar. Kombu has been used as a flavor enhancer for centuries due to its glutamic acid which imparts a mellow, silky taste to all sorts of dishes.
Traditionally, good miso soup begins with DASHI KOMBU, a nutritious all purpose kombu soup stock. To prepare, cut 2 kombu strips into bite size pieces in a pot with 4 cups water. Bring the pot to boil and simmer for 10 minutes.
For MISO SOUP add fresh or lightly sautéed cabbage, carrots, leeks and onions to dashi kombu and simmer until tender. Tofu may be added when the vegetables are nearly ready. Remove 1/2 cup broth and cream with 3 to 4 tablespoons miso. Add to soup and heat to just before boiling. Shiitake mushrooms and wakame seaweed are traditional favorites and can be added at the dashi stage.
Kombu gives BEAN DISHES a silky delicious broth as well as making them easier to digest. Once you try beans with kombu, it becomes an essential ingredient. Put 2 strips of kombu in with beans to soak. Cook for an hour in a pressure cooker or simmer for a few hours. Sauteé onions and garlic in plenty of olive oil with salt and spices. Cumin and curry are my favorites – or try white beans with savory spices. When onions begin to brown stir them into the cooked beans.
Alaria esculenta, also known as Atlantic wakame, grows in thick beds on low surf-battered ledges. It’s the most challenging seaweed to harvest.
In the spring, Alaria grows vigorously, putting on a foot a week in May. The plants must be harvested during a narrow window in early summer, after they have put on reasonable growth but before the punishing surf tatters the thin leaves. Ironbound Island harvests only the tender first year plants in the annual zone, leaving the deeper perennial plants to replenish the ledges with their spores. Alaria is rich in calcium, among other minerals, and contains a broad spectrum of vitamins – especially vitamin A and the B vitamins. Unlike Japanese wakame, which is often blanched, Alaria is dried in the sun in its natural state. Alaria’s delicate dark green leaf is delicious and beautiful in soups, salads and stir fries.
For a basic Alaria STIR FRY, soak one cup of Alaria in 2 1/2 cups water for fifteen minutes. Remove Alaria from water and slice into fine strips. Slice shiitake mushrooms, leeks and one block of tempeh. Combine with Alaria and 2 tablespoons tamari, 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 teaspoon crushed ginger and 3 cloves crushed garlic in a hot skillet. Add 3/4 cup Alaria soaking water after about 5 minutes and simmer for another 10 minutes. Towards the end of the cooking time add 2 teaspoons of sesame oil.
Wakame is the classic seaweed to use in MISO SOUP. Simmer the Alaria in dashi soup stock or water for fifteen minutes. Add fresh or lightly sautéed vegetables such as carrots, leeks and kale and simmer for another 10 minutes. Tofu makes for a heartier soup. Remove 1/4 cup of broth and cream with one to two tablespoons of miso per cup of soup stock as the vegetables near completion. Add this to soup and remove from heat. Garnish with scallions and ginger.
Try Alaria in LENTIL SOUP. One half cup for every two cups of legumes will fortify and flavor the broth as it dissolves.
Available in stores.