While the West Coast produces a lot of food in the United States, there’s one ingredient that’s been largely overlooked: seaweed. One Northern Californian company is hoping to make it a bigger part of the American diet.
Salt Point Seaweed was founded by three friends: Tessa Emmer, Catherine O'Hare, and Avery Resor. Their inspiration to gather and sell Californian seaweed sparked once they realized there was an abundance of fresh, local seaweed that was being overlooked.
In 2017, the women launched their company and named it after a nearby California coastal area. The move made sense considering the friends have backgrounds in conservation and sustainable agriculture.
The trio harvests all their seaweed on the California coast in northern Mendocino County. To make sure the process is as sustainable as possible, the seaweed is gathered by hand during the low tide in the summer.
So what makes this seaweed so special? While many types of seaweed they collect are similar to Asian species, California has their own special varieties. These include versions of kombu, wakame, and nori. The founders also assert that their West Coast seaweed has not been contaminated by radioactivity from Fukushima.
In addition to harvesting wild seaweed, the team is also farming a crop of their own. They hope to bring seaweed cultivation to California to help balance out the pressure on the local environment caused by overfishing. The team, through their research, suggest that seaweed helps the marine environment in other ways, like improving water quality and mitigating ocean acidification.
Besides helping the ocean eco-system, farming seaweed has perks for consumers, too. Most of the seaweed Americans eat is shipped over from commercial seaweed farms based in Asia. Local sources can minimize CO2 emissions from overseas transportation.
Salt Point Seaweed also takes care to dry their seaweed naturally with the sun. Similar to bamboo, this crop grows fast and can regenerate quickly.
In addition to offering a vegan and gluten-free source of protein, seaweed can be cooked in a wide range of dishes, from soups to grains. Some foodies even have it in their ice cream! Salt Point Seaweed claims that their seaweed is in tip-top condition since it is harvested from an area that is frequently tested for pollutants and doesn't need to be rinsed before being added to a meal.
To try cooking with this ingredient, you can buy some of Salt Point Seaweed’s wild seaweed online, or get inspired by one of their seaweed recipes.