Eating back the seaweed tide

There’s a Japanese delicacy on the rocks, writes Hilary Rowley.

One of the top 100 invasive species in the world is invading our coast right now. Undaria pinnatifida, originally native to Japanese waters, was introduced to New Zealand by fouling on container ships in the 1980s. Once here it spreads by spores and is very, very successful at out competing everything in its wake, including our amazing and unique giant kelp forests.

There is good news though. Unlike gorse and many other invasive weeds, this weed is edible, but not just edible, it is delicious, and has loads of health giving qualities.

The Japanese name for this seaweed is wakame. You have probably seen it for sale as a finely shredded, bright green salad flecked with sesame seeds. Or dried and toasted into delicious chips in Asian food stores.

Luckily for us, this weed contains abundant calcium, magnesium, manganese, bio available iodine, omega 3, and vitamins A, C, E, K, B2 and B12 (folate). It is low calorie, low fat, low cholesterol and it contains the key minerals to balance hormones naturally. Wakame is also said to play a role in fighting some cancers, obesity, diabetes and lowering blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

So let’s get eating this stuff.

There is plenty attached to the rocks around Mapoutahi Pa site, between Doctors Point and Purakaunui beaches at low tide. It is apparently also at Moeraki, Aramoana and in Otago Harbour, and probably plenty of other sites on our coast where there are rocks for it to set up shop on. The photos supplied are from Mapoutahi, I don’t care if everyone goes and forages it, and pulls it out by its holdfast, it needs to be gone. The most recognisable feature is at the base of the stalk near the hold fast, where it has a sort of frill, like the ruff on an Elizabethan collar, and the stalk or stipe is flattish, rather than rounded. The long fronds are not tough, and quite tender to eat, even raw.

The good thing about seaweed foraging in New Zealand is you can’t really go wrong as there are no poisonous seaweeds, just some that are not so nice to eat.

Wakame tastes and looks amazing after being blanched in boiling water, as it goes a really bright green (although this colour doesn’t last in your home kitchen, the bought stuff has been doctored to make it stay bright green).

Hilary Rowley is a frugal, foraging foodie from Waitati. Each week in this column, one of a panel of writers addresses issues of sustainability.

Wakame salad

I just soak the kelp in fresh water for 10 minutes, chop it into fine strips with a knife, blanch with boiling water for a couple of minutes, drain and refresh in cold water. Season with Πcup of sake or white wine, 1 tsp sugar and 1 tsp of sesame oil and sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds.

Today I grabbed some, and chopped it into a soup. I used tom yum paste, ginger, fresh turmeric, garlic, spring onions and mushrooms, with a splash of coconut cream and a sprinkle of cilantro, but it would be amazing in a miso soup.

The fronds can be dried and stored for later, roasted in the oven as chips, and if you have had enough of eating the stuff, put it in your compost heap.

I love win/win situations. Eat your enemy, don’t hold back, get out there on our coast and decimate it.



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