The Producers: Kai Ho sea vegetables

Author: Sue Dyson & Roger McShane
Photography: SCOTT HAWKINS

Get your daily dose with sustainably grown, hand-harvested seaweed.

WHO Kai Ho, "ocean's treasure" in Japanese, is a joint venture between Tasmanian seafood processor James Ashmore and Dr Craig Sanderson, an academic who moved to Tasmania from Victoria more than 30 years ago to indulge his passion for seaweed.

WHAT Kai Ho harvests two introduced seaweed species considered invasive in Tasmania: Undaria pinnatifida, from which they produce wakame and mekabu, and Grateloupia turuturu, or red lettuce, a spectacular red seaweed. Providing that new government permits are approved, they'll soon also harvest Lessonia corrugata, native only to Tasmania and a substitute for Japanese konbu, and Chaetomorpha coliformis, or mermaid's necklace - strands of small, bright-green translucent balls that explode in the mouth with the taste of salt and cucumber.

HOW Tasmania's cool waters are ideal for harvesting seaweed. At present, Kai Ho's produce is harvested off the east and south coasts by diving or foraging in intertidal waters. Harvesters are trained to recognise the correct species (there are over 2,000 varieties in Australia and many look similar) and gather them in a way that's sustainable. Most Kai Ho seaweed is salted, frozen or dried for sale but some, such as mermaid's necklace, is sold fresh. As well as its capacity to add umami flavours to many dishes, seaweed is also packed with vitamins and minerals.

WHERE Dried wakame, Tasmanian konbu and mekabu are available from or nationally in various health-food stores. Kai Ho seaweed is also available direct from Ashmore Foods, 32 McIntyre St, Mornington, Tas. For a full list of stockists call (03) 6244 3188.

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