The idea first occurred to me when Kevin held up a branchy red alga from a tide pool on Sucia Island State Park. The way scientists in the field tell two different algae apart (in this specific case) is usually determined by a good sniff–the one we were looking at had a bleach-y smell to it, while its counterpart does not.
I know smell is important, but taste. Hmm…
As a purveyor of fine asian vegetarian food, I’m not new to eating seaweeds. Nori? I love it!
So my goal on Sucia became to taste the seaweeds (after I got permission from Emily) that we found in abundance. My results were based on a scale of one to ten, with Nori defining ten because that’s the one I find the tastiest already.
I was able to try Porphyra in person, live and right off the rock. Good news: Porphyra sp. (Nori!) tastes just as good raw and in the field. Rating: +10.
Candrocanthus sp. (common name turkish towel) is all right in the field. Rating: 6.
Ulva sp. might be all right if you were pretty desperate, my feeling was mostly that it was bland. Rating: 4.
The only way I can think describe Halosaccion (the Sea Condom, not Dead Man’s Fingers as I originally thought and why I hate common names) would be to not eat it unless you’re starving. Rating 1.
Worst, by far, was the Costaria costata. A large, rumply-looking kelp-type plant. What I learned: not even when you’re starving. Rating: -1.
It was an interesting way to start studying algae. I don’t know if I’d recognize a genus or species just by taste, but certainly I remembered them better by experiencing them with more than just the usual sight and touch.
(Edited to fix “alga”, “algaes” and “algas”. Don’t worry, I know how to use them now.)