Seaweed Secrets

Goldie Gillis makes seaweed pie

Goldie Gillis makes seaweed pie

Have you ever done something on a whim, not knowing what was in store? That happened to me when I was in Prince Edward Island (PEI) on our annual summer trek. I had read about “Experience PEI,” a program started by innkeepers Bill and Mary Kendrick who believed that if visitors met interesting Islanders doing interesting things, and if those visitors could actually do those interesting things, it would provide a memorable vacation experience. The program took flight and people have been winging their way around PEI doing all kinds of things from harvesting potatoes to making chocolate. One of the programs that caught my eye was Seaweed Secrets.

As you know, I’m a rural gal with close roots to the sea. I’m also a big fan of dulse and always have a stash in my kitchen. But, aside from dulse, I had no idea how many edible seaweeds exist on our coasts, nor did I know how to cook with them—until I signed up for Seaweed Secrets.

Seaweed as a vegetable?

The first part of the program involves a show & tell. It was fun to see over a dozen varieties and learn the health benefits associated with seaweed “vegetables.” For starters, popular seaweed varieties such as Irish moss, kelp, norri, dulse, ulva and corda, provide all 56 minerals and trace elements required for our body’s physiological functions. Other interesting tidbits: seaweed can boost our immune system, help control allergies and prevent several diseases. Seaweed is also loaded with B Vitamins along with Vitamins A, E and C.

Scouring the ocean floor looking for edible seaweed

Scouring the ocean floor looking for edible seaweed

After the seaweed show & tell, we headed to the shore and learned to identify various kinds of seaweed. It was fun to see different varieties in pools of water between the rocks. I was especially fascinated by the taste of very small nodules that we picked off the ends of bladderwrack—so tender and sweet. I’ve grown up with this seaweed; as kids we tried to pop the pods but I never realized the tips were edible.

Eventually we found our way back to our hosts’ home (Goldie and Gilbert Gillis), where we learned how to make seaweed pie. Right after the pie lesson, we settled down for a gorgeous bowl of fresh vegetable soup with kelp, biscuits made with dulse flakes and a huge slice of seaweed pie. It was memorable!

Seaweed Pie

Seaweed Pie

Seaweed Pie


1 ¼ C graham crumbs
¼ C brown sugar
1/3 C soft butter

Mix together, press into a pie plate and chill.


2/3 C dry Irish moss
4 C white milk (soy, coconut or chocolate milk can also be used)
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 C sugar

Soak the Irish moss in cold water for 15 min. Wash thoroughly. Drain. Put with milk and simmer 20 min. Strain into bowl; discard moss. Add vanilla and sugar to the milk. Pour warm mixture over crumb crust. Cool until it sets. Serve with chopped fresh berries.

Dulse Biscuits

4 C flour
¼ C sugar
8 tsp baking powder
2 tsp salt
½ C oil
1/8 C dulse flakes
1 ¾ C milk

Put together first 5 ingredients. Mix oil in with pastry blender. Add milk to make a soft dough. Knead lightly then roll out and cut with biscuit cutter. Bake on middle rack of oven at 400 degrees for 15 min.

All photos: Sandra Phinney

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  1. avatarjulia mclean says

    Cardiff market in South Wales where I was brought up, sells prepared seaweed called LAVERBREAD. It looks like a black mush.
    You buy it and drain it a bit and make ‘patty’ shapes by adding a small quantity of rolled oats. The patties are then dipped in flour and then fried – usually in bacon fat. These patties are served with crispy fried bacon and often fried cockles.i don’t know what sort of seaweed it is but if you look up Laver Bread on the web you will surely find it.

  2. avatarAJ says

    Be careful with Pacific seaweed… With the amount of radioactive water used to cool the reactors at Fukushima, I would steer clear of it for a long, long while.

    The radioactive air quality monitors up our coast were manually turned off, because they weren’t going to go off on their own. That means radiation levels in our air are far higher than normal.

    Fukushima’s reactors were overheating. When they realized that they couldn’t save the reactors, they started using sea water to cool the nuclear rods. That water was dumped back into the ocean. I would most definitely avoid shellfish from the area (because they’re bottom feeders), and seaweeds (because they are kind of like ‘filters’ for water).

    East Coast seaweed is fine. Until they have some sort of disaster that ruins it for us too.


  3. avatarGeorge Burden says

    Fascinating. I knew that the seaweed dulse was edible (and that they use Irish Moss in ice cream) but never suspected it was such a versatile food stuff.

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