“The way I was introduced to harvesting wild seaweed for culinary use was when I first started going out to the Oregon coast to explore and… get more connected to the ingredients we use,” says Jacob Harth, chef-owner of Portland’s seafood-focused restaurant Erizo. “We just started picking it and testing it every which way. That’s the only way you can learn how to use stuff. You just have to taste it and figure out what works.”
He takes us into Oregon’s Port Orford and walks us through the types of seaweed he generally picks. There’s wakame, which Harth likes to utilize because it can be invasive, growing rapidly and smothering other types of sea life. Then there’s rockweed, a flavorful seaweed that has a tough texture — at his restaurant, he dries it and grills it to make a flavored oil. There’s also feather boa kelp, which is a long seaweed with fronds that come off. This one is very sweet, and good for broth.
Harth shows off how he dries his seaweed in the sun right next to the beach. He then makes a broth with it, adding cured smelts, dried squid, grilled shiitake mushrooms, and mussels. The result is a hot, salty, umami blast that the chef drinks right out of a mug.