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Edible Seaweed – How to harvest and enjoy sea lettuce

a close up of a rock

Sea lettuce – (Ulva lactuca) – This bright green seaweed grows in thin sheets in the mid-intertidal zone, so it’s easy to pick at low tide.  A very clean tasting seaweed, not fishy, great in seaweed salad or add to ramen, congee or risotto for a colourful note of the sea.  Great firm texture.  Can be eaten raw, dried or roasted.

Habitat: Sea lettuce likes growing in relatively sheltered areas with good sunlight on rocks.  Likes estuaries.

Growth cycle: Grows rapidly in spring and dies off in late summer

Seaweed harvesting Do’s and Don’ts:

Do: Make sure the water quality is top notch, don’t harvest seaweed near cities, marinas, creosote soaked logs or boats.  Going further away from humans is best.  Check water quality on your local government sites before going to harvest.

Pick seaweed when the water is cold and clear, as the summer comes on the water gets murky and the flavour of the seaweed can suffer.  It’s still okay to pick it in summer, but it tastes better in cold months.

Harvest from living plants, they can be attached to the rocks still or floating, but make sure they look bright green and in good condition.  It’s more sustainable to harvest floating seaweed.

Don’t: Over harvest.  Seaweed is home to a lot of other creatures that rely on it for food or for breeding grounds, make sure you’re not taking more than your share and don’t uproot the seaweed, just pick a few blades from each plant.  As with any food, consuming in small doses is best.

An amazing app for our area is Seaweed Sorter that can help you ID seaweeds that are new to you.

To learn about more types of edible BC seaweed, here’s my other post.

And lastly, an instructional video on how to harvest sea lettuce…  Enjoy! – Chef Robin