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Torbay farmer harvesting new bounty — seaweed

Foragers Dinner set for the Grounds Café on March 24

A healthy foodie scene has opened the door to a number of new, exciting, interesting and some would say obscure items on menus across the City of St. John’s.

An example of the obscure comes from a bounty derived from the sea.

Shawn Dawson, owner/operator of the Barking Kettle, a small farm located in Torbay that specializes in foraging, growing and selling vegetables, jams, pickles and hot sauces, has found that seaweed is a sought-after item for foodies.

"I have been doing foraging for a while to supply restaurants around town,’’ Dawson said.

“I was asked by the Boreal Diner in Bonavista to help out with a dinner they were doing. They do a lot of foraging food, so they asked me to go out and forage for some items and make a meal out of it,’’ he added.

So out in the ocean he went, secured some oarweed, a type of edible kelp and pickled it. He served it on a cod dish and it went over well, he said, while preparing a double batch of his sea olives at The Grounds Café in Portugal Cove, part of the Murray Gardens compound.

“I did another batch of it a few weeks ago and it sold out at the St. John’s Farmer’s Market.” He made two dozen bottles and they sold out, so he is making four dozen this time to see how things go.

Oarweed is a common kelp seaweed that grows in dense beds, attached to rocky shores by its tough, root-like holdfasts. It can grow at depths of up to 20 metres in clear water, and flourishes in strong currents. Its floating fronds may be exposed at low tide.

Oarweed, a perennial, can live up to six years; although growth occurs throughout the year, it grows fastest in spring.

Dawson is always looking for anything natural he can turn into a food source. He’s even secured a book, “Common Seaweed of Newfoundland: a guide for the layman” produced by the biology department at Memorial University in 1975 to use as his seaweed bible.

He cited an article he read in The Telegram just recently that denoted the benefits of seaweed in breast cancer patients.

Fresh is best “I just want to caution people who want to try this not to pick the stuff up off the beach that has been there for a few weeks and is dried out,’’ he said.

“You really have to get off the beach and get the live stuff off the rocks,’’ he added.

Dawson is experimenting with several varieties of seaweed to find the best one for seaweed chips and other dried and edible seaweed items such as dulse, a common dried seaweed.

“This is really opening my eyes to the opportunities that are here for seaweed,’’ he said.

“We are surrounded by oceans. I always used it for compost in the past, but nothing on the culinary scale.”

The process is simple and doesn’t take a lot of ingredients to make the gherkin-like pickles.

Once you have an ample supply of seaweed, a few dozen mason jars and a big pot on the stove filled with brine comprised of vinegar, water and sugar. You have all you need to complete the process.

In the bottles, just add ginger, coriander, black pepper and the seaweed. Pour the brine over the top and seal the bottles. The heat and subsequent steam from the brine will cook the seaweed.

If you would like to try some of Dawson’s products you can get them at the St. John’s Farmer’s Market or you could attend an upcoming Foragers Dinner set for the Grounds Café on March 24 at 7 p.m.

This event will feature a five-course tasting menu comprised of wild foraged ingredients and co-sponsored by The Fork and The Grounds Café. Cost is $75 plus HST.

Anyone interested in making a reservation can do so at

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