Harvesting Seaweed

Image: Porphyra.

Call it nori or laver or slake, by any name Porphyra is not only delicious, but good for your health as well.

In Japan, where Porphyra is called nori, sheets of compressed Porphyra are eaten with rice as sushi. In Wales, Porphyra is called laver, and is boiled to form a thick paste which is mixed with oats and fried to make “laverbread”, a favourite dish. In Scotland, Porphyra is called “sloke” or “slake”, apparently from Gaelic, and was pounded and stewed with butter to produce a jelly-like substance similar to carrageen. It was eaten with oatcakes or mixed in oatmeal, and said to be a complete survival food. The Irish also eat laver, and call it “sleachán”(pronounced “shlaw-kán”), also from Gaelic.

Although Pophyra can be collected throughout the year, it’s quality and abundance is best around May. At this time, the fronds are big enough that they are easy to pick, and you can harvest a fairly large amount in a relatively short time. Later in the summer, the Porphyra tends to get bleached out, ragged, and covered with epiphytes, so that you must be more selective when collecting it, and you have to clean it more thoroughly.

We were happy to find a patch of Porphyra in the low intertidal zone of our beach. We waited until we had some good low tides, about 3′, and then headed out with collecting buckets.

The gathered seaweed was rinsed in fresh water, and cleaned of debris, rocks, and miscellaneous sea life. Then, since the weather was bright and sunny, we spread it out to dry on a sheet of plastic in the yard. This was probably not the ideal way to dry Porphyra, but it was fast. Next year, I think I will layer in in trays to get a thicker, more uniform product.

drying porphyra

Image: Drying Porphyra.

drying porphyra 2

Image: Drying Porphyra.

After the Porphyra was dried, I crumbled it into small pieces, packed it into canning jars, and vacuum sealed the jars to reduce the amount of oxidation and breakdown of the seaweed over time. Now comes the best part … eating it!

porphyra in jar

Image: Dried Porphyra stored in a jar.

1 thought on “Harvesting Seaweed”

  1. Addendum:
    In our region, purple laver is Porphyra perforata. However, there are a number of species of Porphyra on the coast, and the collection that we made on our beach was more than likely a blend of several species, quite likely Porphyra abbottae (black seaweed) or Porphyra torta (teal nori) among others. Purple laver is more common on rock faces than beaches, whereas the Porphyra we were picking was growing on small rocks and shells. Black seaweed and teal nori have smaller blades that do not have holes in them. They are also tastier than purple laver, although this was mostly just luck for us, as I would have collected and eaten any of the Porphyra species.

    The best time to harvest Porphyra around here is in May at a good low tide. Most species grow in the mid to lower intertidal zone. I have had good luck with rock bluffs, especially where there is reasonably good current flow. However, shallow slope cobble beaches also will have Porphyra growing on rocks in the lower intertidal zone. Porphyra is quite common on the coast, but is often overlooked as the blades are quite small most of the year. They reach their maximum growth in spring, and then are quickly eroded by the waves and currents, or overgrown by other algae, and seem to “disappear”.

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