Meet Our Friends at Maine Coast Sea Vegetables!
We hear a lot of stories on our delivery routes and have made some incredible friends among our fellow Maine business owners. But why should we keep them all to ourselves? It’s part of our mission to promote the health of our land and our role as stewards of it, and what better way to do that than by supporting our partners who share those goals.
You already know we love to talk about sugaring, but it’s time we gave air-time to some of the many local producers who are loving and learning from the land around them. Starting with the folks at Maine Coast Sea Vegetables. That’s right, sea vegetables!
Who is Maine Coast Sea Vegetables?
Maine Coast Sea Veg was founded in 1971 in a farmhouse kitchen, much like our cabin in the woods, where a couple discovered the rich flavor that wild harvested sea vegetables could lend to everyday foods. Back then, local seaweed harvesters were few and far between. Now, they process, pack, and ship several hundred thousand pounds of sea vegetables annually. But enough from our point of view!
Enter Kara Ibarguen, Kelp Krunch Baker and part of MCSV’s Outreach and Education team, who talked to us about exactly what makes them so special. She told us how proud she is that MCSV has been 100% employee owned since 2017, which means no single person, family, or party is a majority shareholder of the company’s stock.
She also says that the seaweed itself sets them apart.
“We are a unique business in that our seaweeds are all wild-harvest, not farmed for now at least.” Their sea vegetables are harvested from areas across the North Atlantic coast and are not only certified organic, but also tested for microbes, heavy metals, radioactivity, and other pollutants.
And while we could get truly nerdy about their harvesting and processing, what we really can’t stress enough are the amazing characteristics and benefits of seaweed.
“From helping meet the food needs of our growing population with high-level nutrition to helping sequester carbon and reducing ocean acidification,” sea vegetables are wholesome not only for human consumers but also for the land we live on, Kara said.
And that’s exactly what she loves most about working with sea vegetables. “My favorite part of my job is introducing people young and old to how truly delicious and nutritious seaweed is! I love seeing the reactions of people when we cook a simple dish like Dulse Grilled Cheese or Kelp Salad and they have a taste and they’re just amazed. I like to characterize what I do as demystifying sea vegetables; it’s my superpower!”
Why Sea Vegetables from Maine?
Like us, MCSV believes in the importance of place. In fact, they’re connected with many other local makers beyond us at Sap Hound. With the help of the Maine Seaweed Council, they’ve met and fostered relationships with seaweed industry members from around the state. These include harvesters, suppliers, and other companies making products that contain seaweed.
“We love our relationships,” Kara said. “Many of our suppliers are long time, multi-generational family relationships! This allows us to talk about what we sell with a sense of pride and deep understanding.”
MCSV has also hosted educational workshops that introduce local chefs to seaweed products and help them discover ways to incorporate this local ingredient into their cooking. By getting food industry professionals familiar with this unique food source, they are also spreading its goodness to all the restaurant-goers who will enjoy their new recipes.
Of course, they love the variety of wild sea vegetables just waiting to be found and added to your soup or salad. But their love of the state of Maine goes beyond their goals as a business. Kara was kind enough to share just a few other reasons why Maine holds a special place in her heart.
“By far what I enjoy most about living on the coast of Maine is all the great mountains for hiking with their rewarding views of the ocean, lakes, and other peaks,” she said. “I love to hike in all the seasons. The same trail never looks exactly the same twice.”
She couldn’t be more right. Our state is always changing and growing around us, and we love the new lessons and experiences it seems to always bring to our feet. Just this year, Sap Hound is making the move from Brownfield to our northern location. And though we’ll still be within the borders of Maine, we know that just a few miles can change the whole landscape and bring us a new perspective.
On top of the beauty, Kara also touches on the incredible people that always seem to draw her back to Maine. “I enjoy all the wonderful people who call this home. I’ve lived a lot of different places, but I’ve always returned to my first home,” she said.
How Do Seaweed and Maple Syrup Overlap?
We’re firm believers that maple syrup isn’t just for drenching your pancakes--though that’s definitely delicious—and likewise, seaweed isn’t just for things like sushi. As a baker for MCSV, Kara was able to give us some insight into how their brand combines these two Maine products.
“I mainly use the maple syrup in our Kelp Krunch Bars to give them a pleasing sweet flavor and to help them hold together.” P.S. Sesame Ginger is our personal favorite flavor and won a 2021 Good Food Award!
But the opportunities for collaboration don’t stop with Kelp Krunch! Kara says she incorporates maple syrup wherever a little sweetness is needed, like in the soy & sesame dressing for her seaweed salad or in her Irish Moss Pudding recipe!
Make MCSV Seaweed Salad
- 1 Bag of Atlantic Kombu
- 3 T Tamari
- 3 T Rice Vinegar
- 2 T Toasted Sesame Oil
- 1 tsp Raw Sugar or sweetener of choice
- 1 tsp White Miso (optional)
- 1 T Sesame Seeds
- 1 T finely chopped Scallions
- Crushed Red Pepper to taste
- Soak the Alaria/ Kelp in cool water for about five minutes.
- Cut it into 1/8"-1/4" strips and set aside.
- The kelp can either be chopped or if preferred, unfurl the frond, laying it flat on the cutting board.
- Then working with the sheet in the horizontal position, roll the kelp up in a tight tube shape.
- Next slice the rolled up kelp creating noodles. Coax apart the spirals and set aside.
- Bring a pot of water to a boil. Add the sea vegetables and cook 5 minutes.
- Meanwhile, combine the tamari, vinegar, sesame oil, sugar, and miso in a bowl. Mix well until the sugar is dissolved
- Toast the sesame seeds slightly in a dry skillet, just until they become aromatic.
- Cool the seaweed in a cold water bath before combining with the dressing. Sprinkle with sesame seeds, scallions and red pepper flakes before serving.
- Adding spiralized or sliced carrot, cucumber, and/or radishes lends a pleasing crunch to the salad as well. Be creative and Enjoy!
You can get creative with your maple syrup and sea vegetable combinations, or you can always check MCSV’s amazing glossary of seaweed recipes for inspiration.
“I would just like to encourage all Mainers to take a new look at seaweed, not as an ocean ‘weed,’ but as a delicious, approachable, local food source. Don’t be intimidated by it and just give seaweed a chance!”
And seaweed isn’t just used in foods. We asked Kara if there were any fan-favorites from MCSV and she turned to one producer who, “makes a lovely line of botanical beauty products containing seaweed.” Other Maine companies use seaweed in products like beer, vodka and teas. The possibilities truly are as deep as the sea!
The story of Maine Coast Sea Vegetables and how we came to cross paths is a long one, but we’re just happy to introduce you to them and hopefully spark some curiosity about local Maine products like seaweed. Until next time!