If you’ve never tried using seaweed in salads and dishes, you may be pleasantly surprised. Of course, if you like Japanese cuisine, then you’ve probably eaten it already — in sushi, for instance. But you don’t have to go to Japan, or even to a Japanese restaurant to see what a tasty and nutritious contribution seaweed can make to your kitchen. And you don’t even have to go to the store to get the seaweed if you live in or visit the right places. Monterey Bay, for one, has more edible seaweed washing ashore than anyone can possibly use.
We noticed the shore was littered with seaweed and the sea was literally turning green. So we began to wonder, is it edible? Thanks to a quick Internet search we learned that indeed it was. So of course we had to try it. So at low tide we filled a bag, brought it home and rinsed it thoroughly. You’d be surprised to find there are still remnants of tiny sand crab shells still hiding in the folds of fresh seaweed even after 3-4 rinses. We then set it out in layers between paper towels and put it aside to dry a few hours in the oven. The next day we decided to hang it. And now we are adding it to pizza, burgers, shakes, pasta and salads.
There are many varieties of edible seaweed in Monterey Bay, but there is one that is particularly easy to identify — it’s called sea lettuce, because that’s sort of what it looks like. Once dry, it will turn from bright green to very dark green. Then it can be stored until the next Ice Age, or until it gets thrown into a culinary concoction, whichever comes first.
And while you’re in the Monterey area, be sure to stop at Monastery Beach in Carmel-by-the-Sea. You’ll know you’re in the right place because… well, it’s just across the road from an old monastery. Just be sure to get there fairly early in the day, especially if you are driving a large vehicle or at peak times, because parking is limited.
Monastery Beach is a great place to scuba dive, in part because of the extensive kelp forests (another form of seaweed, don’t you know?) But it’s not a good place to swim, because of a deep trough near the beach that creates a lethal undertow. So instead of going for dip, try taking a hike around the beach to a pelican hangout.
Go past the cross originally erected on the hill by the Portola Crespi expedition in 1796 and you’ll come to an inlet at Carmel River State Beach, where these birds like to hang out, at least when the humans are not too thick. They’re fascinating to watch, zooming in and out in a well coordinated dance like airplanes at a very busy airport.
And speaking of airports, if flight is your thing, you might want to try paragliding off the dunes just north of Monterey at Marina State Beach. Can you think of a better way to stay 6 feet away from everyone else?