In my memories of sharing bags of dulse with my grandfather on the couch, I was the only other person in the family who would eat the peculiarly salty snack with him. We looked forward to each savory curl of the dried seaweed, ranging in color from dark ruby to black, that bore scents of tobacco and licorice. Owing to its saltiness and chewiness, dulse delivers a satisfying, jerky-like experience.
When dulse is dried, it becomes a shelf-stable snack I can rely on while sitting out freezing northeastern weather, like today. But some of my most recent memories involving dulse recall a much sunnier atmosphere. A few summers back, I had a chance to visit my grandfather’s old Acadian stomping grounds of Prince Edward Island, where the native Mi’kmaqs have been eating this excellent vegetarian source of B vitamins since long before the Europeans arrived. I discovered that on modern-day Prince Edward Island, seaweed consumption has mostly faded away. But after asking around, I found bags of dried dulse at the table of Oceanna Seaplants at the Charlottetown Farmers Market. Dr. Irene Novaczek, a marine ecologist who grew up in nearby Nova Scotia, co-owns the business with her daughter, and she remembers Nova Scotian pubs serving dulse as a snack instead of nuts. One of her favorite ways to enjoy dulse is by toasting the fronds quickly over a small fire on the beach, the seaplant gaining the crispness of bacon.
In New Brunswick, dulse is still prominent at the province’s farmer’s markets. Maine is America’s only commercial dulse outpost, supplying American health food stores with this sea vegetable in flakes (best for soups and smoothies), in granules (a replacement for salt), or in its most snackable form: a bag of fronds dried in an inviting tangle, ready for sharing.