What is Palmaria Palmata?

Donn Saylor

Palmaria palmata is a variety of red algae widely used in cooking and as a stand-alone snack food. This sea vegetable is known by a variety of more common names, such as creathnach, dillisk, red dulse, and sea lettuce flakes. It possesses 56 different vital elements and nutrients, including B-vitamins and iodine, and is an ideal source of protein. Palmaria palmata is used in several different styles of cooking, most notably in Icelandic and Irish cuisine.

Woman baking cookies
Woman baking cookies

This type of edible algae is predominantly found in cooler waters off the Atlantic Coast of Canada and in the waters of Norway and Ireland. It tends to grow on reefs, rocks, and shells, as well as on bigger varieties of seaweed; when it is harvested, palmaria palmata is in the shape of fronds. Although it is native to only certain geographic regions, sea vegetables of this style can be purchased at health food stores, certain grocery stores, and through online merchants.

In Irish fare, palmaria palmata is most often used as a seasoning. Various breads and soups are infused with the seaweed to give it a robust, slightly saltier flavor. It is also commonly utilized in cheese dishes and potato dishes. On Ireland's west coast, palmaria palmata can be purchased from street vendors as a snack food. The gathering of dulse is a long-standing tradition in Ireland that is quickly dissipating due to the seaweed's easy commercial availability.

Icelandic cuisine has long made use of palmaria palmata, primarily known in the region as sol. In the early days of making cereals, sol was harvested, dried, and added to ground corn. It was then cooked with water to make porridge. More contemporary Icelandic dishes still employ the algae in salads, soups, and breads.

By far the most popular way to eat palmaria palmata is by itself. In fact, it can be consumed directly off the reef, rocks, or shells as long as it has had time to dry out in the sun. The dried dulse is a common snack food all over the world. It is slightly crunchy and salty and possesses a light seafood taste. Dulse comes in strips for snacking or as flakes or powder for cooking purposes.

Palmaria palmata contains every one of the trace elements needed by the human body. Its vitamin and nutrient levels surpass virtually all land-grown vegetables. It also possesses nearly all essential amino acids required by humans.

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