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.
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!
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.
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