Spontaneous seaweed foraging
There’s nothing like going to the city to visit a relative, and next minute you find yourself on the South Coast of Wellington (my favorite part of Wellington), remembering that August is the best time of year to gather seaweed in NZ. Before you know it, you’ve dragged the whole family out onto the rocks, in a freezing southerly, to gather your favorite seaweeds, Karengo & Sea Lettuce...
Karengo or Parengo is the NZ Maori name for a species of Porphyra that grows in NZ (aka Purple Laver), from the same family as the Japanese Nori. Yes that’s right, that stuff that you buy in plastic packets that’s been shipped across the globe, to wrap your sushi in, actually grows right here in NZ, in abundance.
It’s really easy to gather Karengo/Parengo at low tide, as it conveniently grows on the rocks which are exposed. Karengo dries really easily and that’s what we do with it. Usually I hang it on a clothes drying rack for a few days to dry out, either outside if dry, or by the fire. You could also dehydrate in the oven or a dehydrator. I store it in glass jars in a dark cupboard to use throughout the year.
There’s lots of ways to use Karengo. Powdered into salt to season foods, oven roasted in trays with some oil like chips, cooked like spinach and added to eggy dishes, soups, stews & stocks.
Karengo is very high in protein, upto 35%, and being a seaweed is a rich source of vitamins & minerals which are necessary for the body to maintain optimum health. Seaweeds are superfoods and powerhouses full of nutrition, they’re a great source of natural iodine which can promote healthy thyroid & also hormone function. Seaweeds are also a good source of calcium, Vitamins A-K, iron & also vitamin B12 just to name a few.
My kids adore the Sea Lettuce (Ulva species), which is the bright green one found in shallow rock pools. This one is best eaten fresh, on the same day you gather it. I like it in salads, marinated & eaten with rice, in salad dressings. To be honest we usually just eat this one raw whilst we’re on site gathering seaweed. Tonight Maina has marinated it with tamari, sesame oil, sesame seeds, honey & ginger. Leaving in the fridge overnight. Yum. Sea lettuce contains calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, protein & vitamin C.
There’s over 700 species of seaweeds in NZ, most of them edible.
photo credit @sophiemerkens