Don’t underestimate the utilities of algae

A reader recently asked where to find a field guide to seaweed of the northeast Atlantic and also wanted to know in particular “which species is edible, how to prepare it and what historical uses were of specific seaweeds”. I am going to do my best in answering and encourage you all to continually challenge me with questions. Please feel free to comment anywhere or simply email

It seems as though the most thorough resource with the most concise information online for Atlantic  coast species would be from the Field Guide to Algae from Acadia National Park. A much more extensive online reference would be the AlgaeBase (The World of Algae was absorbed into this database) produced be the Irish Seaweed Research Group. And, of course, there seems to be a gaggle of print books out there as well which are always nice to have while beachcombing.

For the second part of the question I am going to take the time to elaborate on my previous post about edible seaweeds found in ice cream. Here are 10 utilities for algae that you may or may not know about. There are plenty more but I have to leave a little something for you to research with the resources I found (also there is a collection of recent news article below).

  1. In general many seaweeds can be used as your garden’s best friend. Check out this great article from Earth Easy on How to Use Seaweed to Mulch Your Garden.
  2. Algae can be used to make a biodiesel.
  3. Blue-green algae are used as a dietary protein, as well as in aiding weight loss, stress, fatigue, anxiety, depression, among many other others issues (check out the image of the gentleman drinking some below – yum?).
  4. Dulse (Rhodymenia palmata) is a favorite food of those living in Canada, the UK, and northern Europe.
  5. Irish moss (Chondrus crispus) is a food addictive and is the source of carrageenen which thickens and stabilizes foods, including ice cream and beer.
  6. Laminaria seaweeds (also known as Saccharina seaweeds) are thought to stimulate cleansing, reduces water retention, and tone thyroid action.
  7. Nori (Porphyra) is popular in Japanese cuisine and is known for its high nutrient value.
  8. Sargassum seaweeds are thought to disperse accumulated phlegm and water.
  9. Sea lettuces (Ulva) are enjoyed raw in salads and cooked in soups in Scandinavia, the UK, China, and Japan.
  10. Toothed wrack (Fucus serratus) is used as a bath soak in Ireland and is thought to help with arthritis.

If you or anyone you know swears by drinking algae as a supplement please share your experience below. I’d love to read your perspective!

Image (c)

Happy Chinese New Year … Year of the (Sea) Dragon!

Happy Chinese New Year … Year of the (Sea) Dragon!

January 23 will bring a very significant celebration for those that live by the sea … it is the year of the water dragon which only occurs every six decades! To commemorate such an occasion, BCS will highlight two very remarkable and elaborate dragons found off the coast of south and east Australia. The leafy seadragon (Phycodurus eques) and the weedy seadragon (Phyllopteryx taeniolatus) are related to the more familiar seahorse and pipefish.

Leafy Seadragon

Although they may share the similar feature of a long snout with the seahorse and pipefish, the seadragon’s appendages coming from their solid, armor-like skin are what really set them apart. The leafy seadragon, often yellowish-green, is much more ornate than the reddish colored weedy seadragon. Although, the weedy seadragon does have some striking bright blue bands along its upper body. Unlike seahorses,  seadragons do not use their tails to grasp onto the seaweeds or algae that they call home. In fact, the seadragons prefer to drift although they can use their transparent dorsal and pectoral fins to help navigate.

Weedy Seadragon

Similar to seahorses, male seadragons do the child bearing. The males have a brood patch under their tails (unlike the seahorse that have a pouch on their belly). The female will lay approximately 250 eggs on the patch at the time of fertilization and the eggs will hatch approximately 6 weeks later. The tiny juvenile seadragons look exactly like their parents but are immediately independent from them. This is their most vulnerable time of life when they may be eaten by various anemones, crabs, or hydroids. But if they avoid these predators and eat plenty of zooplankton the seadragon will grow to be either 14 inches (leafy) or 18 inches (weedy). The adults usually feast on sea lice or mysid shrimp. Of course, that is also if they manage to evade people collecting them for black market aquariums and staying away from areas where there is pollution and habitat loss.

Other interesting facts about seadragons are that their eyes move independently and they have no teeth or stomach!



Is seaweed really a “weed”?

Actually seaweed is a term given too many different types of marine plants that grow in the ocean and none of them are weeds, in the sense that we would try to get rid up them with a weed killer.

The basic scientific term would really be algae. Algae (Red, brown, or green) are a very large single celled phytoplankton.

Phytoplankton in the world’s oceans is extremely important due to their immense numbers.
Did you know there is more phytoplankton producing oxygen and absorbing the carbon dioxide than there are trees on the land?

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