Did you know that various Porphyra species grow in New Zealand, perhaps better known as 'Nori'. And that nori is shredded, dried, and then made like paper to become the nori for making sushi? I didn't. No porphyra is commercially harvested in New Zealand, as it turns out, but maybe one day I'll try making my own.
A couple of weeks ago, I went out to the New Zealand Marine Studies Centre
at Portobello Marine Laboratories
, to a 'tasting'. Now I'm a fairly veteran wine 'taster' (one shouldn't confuse 'taster' with 'lush'), but I've never been to a seaweed tasting before. It's always pretty amusing seeing the 'obsessions' of other scientists. I think making 'cookies' with seaweed flour is fairly up there, but, in fairness, they were delicious (although not noticeably seaweed flavoured).
After a brief introductory talk about how to find, harvest, and prepare seaweed, along with a detour into the fascinating, and slightly weird, lives of seaweed, we were taken down to the aquarium. Those who have been there will know about the 'touch pools' which are sort of shallow rock pools full of anenmones and starfish which you can reach in and 'interact' with. Well, on this particular night, around 20 different types of seaweed had been strewn through the pools for sampling. I don't think I've ever been to a buffet with live starfish in it before. Apparently all seaweed is edible, although we were advised to avoid taking seaweed from near any sources of polution. There is also one type of seaweed which has a rather unique talent of being able to manufacture its own sulphuric acid, which it stores in its cell walls. Technically it is edible, although with a pH
of 2, it's about on par with the acid in your stomach, and is, I am reliably informed, better used for pickling than eating raw. The variety in texture, flavour and appearance was extremely impressive. Some I would consider using as garnishes, or fresh in salads.
Following the raw buffet, we adjourned inside for a variety of cooked exemplars. This ranged from muffins and biscuits, to commercial chutneys, salads, and kelp chips. The chips were a lot like eating potato chips, and Mr Speight
came to the party with some Pilsener. Mmmmm.