[USA] For foodies on the Monterey Peninsula, the vibrant green seaweed that has washed up on local shores could be the spice you’re looking for.
For the second time in two years, a green carpet of seaweed is blanketing Peninsula beaches in Seaside, Sand City and Marina. And a top algae expert from Moss Landing Marine Laboratories says the sea lettuce is not only safe, it’s edible.
“You could rinse it off, take it home, dry it out and look up your favorite sea lettuce recipe online,” said Michael Graham of the Moss Landing Marine Laboratories’ phycology department.
Graham said the seaweed should be safe because it is a native species, water in the sanctuary is clean and the lettuce is non-toxic. It comes from a Monterey Shale bed off Del Monte Beach, which Graham said is a great place for it to grow because it needs lots of light and nutrients.
“It’s basically a weed that has decided to bloom,” he said.
The sea lettuce has shown up about six times in the last 20 years, Graham said, but this is the first time he recalls it happening two years in a row. Reasons for the increase could be slightly warmer waters, good nutrients and good light, he said.
You can also eat it. According to the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, the seaweed is 50 percent sugar and starch, 15 percent protein, 11 percent water and less than 1 percent fat. It can be air-dried or pressed into thin sheets, and MBARI suggests washing it or soaking it first before eating. It can also be toasted and added to soups and sauces, or even used for animal feed.
A recipe for sea lettuce soup calls for chicken stock, two sheets of sea lettuce, two eggs, salt and pepper, half a teaspoon of sesame oil and one or two green onion stalks.
“Nutritionally, it is very healthy,” MBARI’s website says.
As bad as the seaweed might look this year, the same species tends to get much worse on the other side of the Pacific Ocean in the Chinese coastal city of Qingdao.
A massive bloom of sea lettuce in China in 2008 threatened sailing events during the Beijing Olympics, the New York Times reported. It took boats, helicopters and 10,000 workers to clear the waters.
In 2013, a bloom twice that size — larger than Connecticut, said the Chinese State Oceanic Administration — once again covered Qingdao, the Times said.
Graham said the seaweed will get broken down over time but it will probably be “a couple weeks” before people are no longer noticing it. It poses no threat to marine life or the environment.
“This is like walking into your back lawn and finding out the crabgrass just took over,” he said.
Phillip Molnar can be reached at 726-4361.
Photo: Green sea lettuce is washing up on Monterey State Beach in the Seaside and Sand City areas on July 16, 2015. The sea lettuces comprise the genus Ulva, a group of edible green algae that is widely distributed along the coasts of the world’s oceans. The type species within the genus Ulva is Ulva lactuca, lactuca being Latin for “lettuce”. (Vern Fisher – Monterey Herald) ( Vern Fisher )
View original article at: Green seaweed on Monterey Peninsula shore is safe and edible