Sea lettuce and seashells on the sand.

Lettuce of the Sea

Island beaches can do more than just nourish your soul. If you learn to recognize the distinctive, bright green seaweed known as sea lettuce, you can wildcraft your own nutritional supplement. This common local species contains more iron than beef!

Easy to identify, sea lettuce gets started in the estuaries in April. As it matures, it can be found along the north shore of PEI until July or August. Considered a food source by Scandinavian and Asian cultures, it can be eaten raw in salads or cooked into soups.

Collectors should gather the seaweed floating in the shallows from areas clear of heavy metal contamination for the freshest, highest quality food.

With 1 milligram of iron per 7 grams of vegetable, plus protein, soluble dietary fibre, and other vitamins and minerals, seaweed harvesters in Maine have identified this species as an important resource to market. PEI has the same opportunity to do so.

At present, abundant sea lettuce in estuaries can interfere with the shellfish industry. Harvesting this plant could create much-needed new jobs in rural areas, help shell fishers do their jobs, and offer a natural iron supplement to the market that is plant-derived. Plus, with our iron-rich soils, imagine how power-packed our sea lettuce might be.

If wildcrafting isn’t your thing, Dr. Irene Novaczek, the Island’s beloved seaweed expert, gathers and dries sea lettuce for sale at both the Summerside and Charlottetown Farmers’ Markets. Her company, Oceanna Seaplants, offers a variety of dried local species for eating, as well as cooking up stellar seaweed-based skin products.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, sea plants are seen to be tumour reducing, heavy metal clearing and thyroid stimulating. Specifically, the high iron content of sea lettuce is blood nourishing, benefiting those with pallor, cold extremities, light menses, and infertility. However, seaweed is high in sodium, so those watching their salt intake should pre-soak sea lettuce in water, rinse, and eat sparingly.

About Harmony Wagner

Harmony Wagner began training with the North American Tang Shou Tao Association and her teacher Vince Black in 1996. She underwent a formal apprenticeship with the Four Winds Health Center and was licensed as a Registered Acupuncturist through the CTCMA of British Columbia in 2001. She practices Traditional Chinese Medicine and teaches NATSTA gongfu and qigong in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, Canada.

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