Seaweed Foraging: A Sea Vegetable Tale
In 1971, Shep Erhart and his wife, Linnette, were part of the back to the land movement. “We were trying to grow or gather as much food as we could and stay out of the supermarket,” Shep recalls. They ate a macrobiotic diet, which included a bowl of miso soup every morning.
But the seaweed in it was expensive, imported from Japan. One day while picnicking at Schoodic Point, they spotted some seaweed that looked similar. “We took it home and put it in our soup pot,” says Shep. “Delicious.”
They started gathering local seaweed and drying it on racks they hung from the ceiling of their kitchen and dining room. “It ruined our wallpaper. We definitely were different in our neighborhood. But we didn’t care,” he says. They shared their seaweed with friends, and word spread. When they were contacted by some natural food stores, “We had to get serious about providing a dependable supply.”
Today, the company they created, Maine Coast Sea Vegetables, has 15 year-round employees and 45 seasonal harvesters gathering about 100,000 pounds of seaweed a year, all certified organic. The company sells six different kinds of seaweed, sea seasonings, seaweed flavored tortilla chips, and a high-energy bar called Kelp Krunch. Erhart also has written a book with Leslie Cerier titled Sea Vegetable Celebration, about how to identify and use sea vegetables, including more than 100 recipes.
A Maine Forager’s Recipe
The “DLT” (Dulse*, Lettuce and Tomato Sandwich)
Adapted from Maine Coast Sea Vegetables
Yield: one serving
- Small handful of dry dulse seaweed, smoked or regular
- Olive oil or other cooking oil
- Lettuce, tomato, mayonnaise and bread
Pull apart the dulse and sauté it for a minute or two in an oiled pan, pressing down until it turns a pale brown color and becomes crisp. It will have a bacon-like smell and taste. Prepare the rest of the sandwich as you would any BLT. Add dulse right before serving.
* Dulse is available at most natural food stores, Whole Foods, or online at www.seaveg.com. Cost is about $5 for a 2 oz. package.