Dulse is an edible alga which grows widely along the shorelines of the North Atlantic. It has been harvested as a source of food for thousands of years, and continues to be popular in Northern Ireland, Iceland, and parts of Canada. In addition to being eaten plain as a food source, dulse seaweed and other algae are processed for inclusion in various packaged foods, typically as a thickener or stretcher. Consumers who are interested in trying dulse seaweed can try checking local health food stores, and some larger markets may stock it as well, usually in dried form.
There are a number of alternate names for dulse seaweed including sea parsley, dilsk, creathnach, and söl. Formally, the seaweed is identified as Palmaria palmata. The algae is high in vitamins, especially vitamin B, and it also supplies a lot of fiber and a comparatively large amount of protein. In regions where other plants do not grow well, dulse seaweed has traditionally been an important dietary supplement. Many people acquired a taste for the alga, and continue eating it for pleasure.
The best place to find dulse seaweed is in the intertidal zone, the area of the shoreline alternately covered and exposed by the tides, although dulse also grows in deeper water. It is characterized by long trailing red to purple fronts which can measure as much as 16 inches (40 centimeters). Harvesters collect the seaweed and either eat it fresh or spread it out on netting to dry, making June through September the prime harvesting months, since the seaweed can be processed and dried outside.
Once dried, dulse may be powdered so that it can be used like a condiment, or it may be left in chunky form. The seaweed is added to things like soups and stews, and retains a slightly chewy texture through drying and cooking. The cooked seaweed also retains a hint of a marine flavor, and analysis has suggested that dulse also contains the elusive umami, or fifth taste.
There are numerous varieties of edible seaweed which have played an important role in the human diet for centuries. People in coastal areas who are interested in learning more about edible seaweeds might want to take a plant identification or wildcrafting class which focuses on marine plants and organisms. In addition to learning how to identify dulse seaweed, students can also learn about other types of kelp and algae, and the best ways to process them for eating.