Alaria esculenta, also known as Atlantic wakame, grows in thick beds on low surf-battered ledges. It’s the most challenging seaweed to harvest, and our personal favorite. We are honored to be able to harvest such a delicacy from the islands. In the spring, Alaria grows vigorously, putting on a foot a week in May. The plants must be harvested during a narrow window in early summer, after they have put on reasonable growth but before the punishing surf tatters the thin leaves. We harvest only the tender first year plants in the annual zone, leaving the deeper perennial plants to replenish the ledges with their spores. Alaria is rich in calcium, among other minerals, and contains a broad spectrum of vitamins – especially vitamin A and the B vitamins. Unlike Japanese wakame, which is often blanched, Alaria is dried in the sun in its natural state. Alaria’s delicate dark green leaf is delicious and beautiful in soups, salads and stir fries.
For a basic Alaria STIR FRY, soak one cup of Alaria in 2 1/2 cups water for fifteen minutes. Remove Alaria from water and slice into fine strips. Slice shiitake mushrooms, leeks and one block of tempeh. Combine with Alaria and 2 tablespoons tamari, 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 teaspoon crushed ginger and 3 cloves crushed garlic in a hot skillet. Add 3/4 cup Alaria soaking water after about 5 minutes and simmer for another 10 minutes. Towards the end of the cooking time add 2 teaspoons of sesame oil.
Wakame is the classic seaweed to use in MISO SOUP. Simmer the Alaria in dashi soup stock or water for fifteen minutes. Add fresh or lightly sautéed vegetables such as carrots, leeks and kale and simmer for another 10 minutes. Regular or deep fried tofu makes for a heartier soup. Remove 1/4 cup of broth and cream with one to two tablespoons of miso per cup of soup stock as the vegetables near completion. Add this to soup and remove from heat. Garnish with scallions and ginger.
Try Alaria in LENTIL SOUP. One half cup for every two cups of legumes will fortify and flavor the broth as it dissolves.