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Hey man, want some weed? Seaweed that is.

“Oh yuck,” said my daughter and wife when I brought home a large bag of dried dulse from our nearby fish market. It was thick lobed, purple and crunchy with a perfume that barely hinted at the brine of the sea. The fishmonger had it in bags under the counter. Most people would have passed it by. Not I.

What should I do with this? “Crumble it up and put it on a salad,” said someone in the store. “Add it to a fish stew,” said another. “Just munch it straight from the bag.”

Actually most of us eat a fair amount of seaweed every day. Extracts from dulse, kelp and Irish moss are common thickeners in ice cream, salad dressings, and instant desserts. They are the suspension agents used in those new gooey soft drinks. And of course sushi lovers are familiar with nori—the thin, toasted, greenish black strip of seaweed folded around thick fingers of rice and raw fish or vegetables.

There are many kinds of seaweed used in food processing but dulse is the most versatile. As a powder, it can be used to thicken sauces and processed foods. As flakes, it can be added to salads and soups.

Think of dulse as nature’s original, barely processed, high-fibre, sun-dried vegetable jerky. It’s packed with minerals, vitamins, fiber and protein. It can be fried or boiled. It has no cholesterol or fat and doesn’t need added salt. Maritimers often eat it like popcorn, in dried chunks, straight from the bag. If only it didn’t taste like, well, seaweed, it would probably be the perfect snack.

So there I was. One large bag of dulse and no takers. There is so much healthy eating in even a small strand that it seemed a shame to let it go to waste. Fortunately there are some excellent recipes that should work for even confirmed dulse haters. Chopped up dulse can be added to a mayonnaise or a cream cheese dip. Toasted dulse has a lovely smoky flavour that almost, but not quite, covers the flavour of the flotsam of the shore. It’s tasty if you get it to the right golden brown state of crispness, but be warned: left a fraction too long in the pan and the house soon smells of burnt vegetation. This is a strong stench and makes even a lousy cigar smell good. Best of all is substituting a couple of ounces of dried dulse—soaked in water for about 10 minutes, then drained and finely chopped—for about half the grated carrots called for in any standard recipe for carrot cake.

“What is this?” said my mate, upon returning home from work one evening. “Carrot cake, looks good ... mmm, it tastes OK ... what are these green things in it? Did you throw in some string beans?”... no ... “Could it be spinach?”... no ... “Wait a minute. You didn’t! It’s seaweed!”

© Barry Lazar 2000 Email Flavourguy

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