As we walked by them I slowed a bit to catch a more detailed glimpse of their foraging. The wahine (women) seemed to be pulling apart the pieces of brownish green seaweed. One, seated on a wooden bench, worked meticulously to separate the strands which had little beads of brighter green amid stringy pieces that resembled thick brown threads. The other woman, seated next to a blanket spread across the sand, was laying out the "choice" clumps into assorted gathers of light and dark.
I stopped. I had to know how they would prepare this harvest. It was something completely new and something I might never stumble upon again.
After introducing myself I explained that as an avid cook I felt absolutely compelled to understand what exactly they had planned for this seaweed. The lady on the bench smiled broadly and chuckled. She told us how they separate the limu (seaweed) into two types, the brighter green with beads and the stringier brown stems. They use both, but the green is the seaweed of choice, she said, which they drop into boiling water to blanch and then toss with salt and fresh chopped tomatoes. The stringy brown seaweed I then recognized as something I'd already eaten several times in variations of poke, a Hawaiian fish tartare usually made with sushi grade tuna or salmon.
I half wanted to park myself and help harvest, maybe even take some clumps back to our condo to try my hand at some seaweed deliciousness, but more Maui adventures awaited. The wahine were gracious to allow some pictures and I left feeling as though I'd just encountered a once in a foodie's lifetime experience.
A similar authentic fresh seaweed recipe can be found on Edible Communities: http://www.ediblecommunities.com/hawaiianislands/spring-2010/lomi-tomato-salad-with-limu.htm
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