Yes, I Put Seaweed In Everything
Originally published by Crystal Richard on EastCoastMermaid.com
As a self-declared mermaid, it should come as absolutely NO surprise to any of you that a staple ingredient in many of the meals in our house is – you guessed it – seaweed!
From sauces to soups and sandwiches to burgers – yes, I put seaweed in and on everything.
Seaweed, or as it’s more commonly known around these waters, dulse, has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. I have fond memories of me chomping away on it, right out of the paper bag, since I was a little girl.
Over the years, we’ve made sure to stock up on our dulse supply every time we’re on Grand Manan Island, but now that we have a place there to call our own, I’ve grown more and more curious about the dulse industry, exactly HOW it’s harvested (it’s not quite like picking up seaglass on the beach and drying it on the deck), and the island entrepreneurs who ship it around the world.
So I was thrilled to meet up with Pam Young, Co-Founder of Aqua Veggies Ltd. on the island to learn more about this incredible superfood and their global sea veggie business.
Who’s ready to dive in?
Hold on, What is Dulse?
Let’s start with the basics – what the heck is dulse?
Dulse is an edible seaweed that is incredibly good for you that grows naturally in intertidal zones (where the ocean meets the land) in a limited number of locations around the world.
And Grand Manan Island, right here in New Brunswick is not only a major exporter of dulse but ask anyone from around here and we’ll all agree – Grand Manan has THE best dulse in the world. And I stand by my statement.
This is particularly true if the dulse is harvested from the BACK side of the island, known as Dark Harbour. If you’ve never visited Dark Harbour, I definitely recommend taking a drive down next time you’re visiting the island. It is incredibly unique, there is no power, and property owners have to wait until low tide to drive to their properties or they can take a dory or skiff if the tide is high and they need to get back and forth.
Due to Dark Harbour’s geography – high cliffs and a lot of shade (which is where Dark Harbour got its name) – the dulse that grows along this shore gets just enough sunlight to become the kind of dulse everyone is after.
It’s dark, it’s thick, and it’s absolutely delicious. And it’s incredibly common to see people a buzz in the Grand Manan groups on Facebook trying to track down fresh dulse from Dark Harbour. It’s THAT good.
How is Dulse Harvested?
In a world full of innovation and technology, some may be surprised to learn that dulse is still very much harvested by hand by what we call “dulsers.”
On Grand Manan Island, dulse harvesting begins between April and June (with Dark Harbour having a later start date in June) and it ends, weather depending, around mid-October. All dulse harvesting is done at low tide and super moons, which lead to super tides, make excellent harvesting windows. We just had TWO super moons and super tides in August!
We’re so incredibly lucky on Grand Manan Island to have a number of different sea vegetables that can be harvested, from dulse to laminaria longicrusis (you may know it as, kelp), sea lettuce, nori and more. And the location on the island makes a big difference on what sea vegetables are harvested, with the front side of the island (the inhabited side) having its own sea veggie bounty versus the back side of the island (where Dark Harbour is located) being known for the best dulse.
Once dulse or any sea vegetable is hand harvested, it is dried on land in the sunshine on the dulser or company, like Aqua Veggies, property. It’s not uncommon to be driving around the island and spotting fields or lawns covered with netting and dulse drying in the sunlight.
Of course, I had a lot of questions. Such as exactly HOW long it takes to dry out dulse in the sunshine and what happens if it starts to rain? Do you run outside, just like we do when we have clothes on the line, to cover it or bring it in?
Thankfully, Pam was able to shed some sunlight.
The amount of time dulse or sea vegetables requires to properly dry varies based on the vegetable. Dulse can dry quite quickly, within in a day, if you have great conditions. Perfect drying conditions on the island look like plenty of sunshine and some wind to help with the drying process.
A sea vegetable such as kelp on the other hand can take a few extra days to dry due to its thick nature and long stocks.
And if it rains? Pam said they keep a close eye on the forecast and won’t lay out any dulse or sea vegetables to dry if there is rain in the forecast. They are able to store dulse under water in burlap bags until drying conditions improve to ensure that they do not lose or waste any dulse.
Once all products are dry, they are either culled by a full-time crew to pick out any rocks, shells, and grey leaf (a less desirable algae on the leaves) and packaged as organic whole leaf dulse. But some products are also turned into flakes! These veggies are passed through an on-site mill that will turn all sea vegetables into flakes that will either be sold as organic dulse flakes or my favorite Aqua Veggies product – the Organic Superfood from Sea, a mix of 7 Organic Sea Veggies.
Spoiler: I use this product in EVERYTHING.
Next, all products are stored on-site in one of the company’s nine sea containers, which I think is just grand. During my conversations with Pam, the word sustainability came up many times in conversation and I just love that instead of constructing a new building or warehouse, Aqua Veggies are repurposing sea cans for storage!
How Do I Buy Dulse?
Whether you’re on the island or on the mainland, you’ve probably spotted dulse at your local grocery store, fish market, farmers’ market or health food store. On some occasions, it may literally be in a brown paper bag with the word dulse written on it.
Aqua Veggies has been incorporated since 1999 and today, they ship their products around the world via their website and Amazon storefront. Originally, Pam was the owner of a spa and health food store on the mainland, while her husband was a fisherman on Grand Manan. Her husband, a generational fisherman, had spent his entire life on the ocean and dulsed his whole life. Pam, working in the health food space, knew the incredible health benefits of seaweed.
Together, they started the business before dulse was truly having its moment. Now, dulse and sea vegetables are known around the world as a superfood.
They have a number of products to choose from including organic whole leaf dulse and as I mentioned, their Organic Superfood from Sea, a mix of 7 Organic Sea Veggies that I cook with every day
Dulse and Sea Veggies are also considered to be superfoods for pets too and they have a product for cats and dogs made from the same hand harvested organic sea vegetables used for people. No lesser quality or scraps here for your fur babies.
Their products are available in Sobeys locations across Atlantic Canada, as well as a number of health food stores including our friends at MacArthur’s Market in Moncton. They also do a big business in selling wholesale. What I love most, is that everything is shipped and processed right here on Grand Manan Island.
The best organic sea vegetables in the world sent right to your doorstep.
If you’re visiting Grand Manan Island and would like to bring home some dulse, there are a number of places around the island to purchase dulse. Just look for the signs around the island!
How Do I Cook with Dulse?
Alright, now that we’ve talked about WHAT is dulse and the business of seaweed, let’s get down to the fun stuff – how do you cook with dulse?
I mentioned earlier in this post that we cook with dulse nearly EVERY day.
And no, that doesn’t mean we’re eating seaweed salad or I’m snacking on dry dulse at my desk Monday through Friday – although, you will often find evidence of dulse in my office. Just sayin.
If you’re new to dulse and unsure about the idea of adding seaweed as an ingredient to the meals you cook, let me start by saying that a year ago, my husband was the last person on earth that I thought would be eating dulse on the regular. But we got creative, we experimented in the kitchen, and now we include sea veggies in some incredible dishes.
For example – did you know that you can make “seaweed” butter by adding a mix of dulse and sea vegetable flakes to butter? Throw in some garlic or better yet – black garlic – and you not only have some of the most delicious butter you could imagine, but it makes for a unique and irresistible garlic bread!
And yes, there is seaweed in that pasta dish too!
We also love to add seaweed to different sauces. My favorite is to make a Seaweed Garlic Dip for sweet potato fries, hamburgers, or even chips! Just mix together mayonnaise, Aqua Veggies’s 7 Organic Sea Veggies mix, and some minced garlic and you’re good to go!
Adding dulse to soup broth, seafood chowders, or even throwing some in the pot when you’re steaming lobster or mussels can add just the right amount of saltiness and a hint of the sea, especially if you’re cooking seafood.
I’m also a big fan of sprinkling seaweed flakes into my potato salad, egg salad, and tuna salad when making sandwiches. And Dan always adds a sprinkle of dulse flakes into his fish batter, whenever we’re frying or baking haddock at home! It adds an extra level of yum!
And speaking of sandwiches, I can’t NOT mention my new favorite seaweed infused dish – the DLT. Yes, I’m talking about a Dulse, Lettuce, Tomato sandwich. Fun Fact: dulse when fried in butter in a frying pan surprisingly tastes like BACON making it an excellent bacon substitute and the perfect addition to a lettuce and tomato sandwich. I like to add a slice of cheese too!
My best piece of advice for adding dulse or seaweed to your cooking? Have fun, be creative, and think of it as a salt substitute. If you’re adding dulse to something, you may not want to add the usual amount of regular salt or sea salt that you normally would to your recipe.
And last but not least – remember that you are literally adding a superfood from the sea to your diet!
Alright friends, I’m dying to know what recipes you’re going to create using dulse and sea vegetables after reading this post. Make sure to send me a message in a bottle to let me know what you made AND even better – tag me in your dulse creations on Instagram and Facebook!
And don’t forget – make sure to buy local for good!