Search for seaweed leads travelers to Argentina
October 3rd, 2011
11:15 AM ET
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The fabled Patagonia region of Argentina beckons visitors seeking adventure and the mystique of a place that is now emblazoned on the logo of a brand-name clothing outfitter.

But for Jane Teas of Columbia, South Carolina, a December 2009 trip to Argentina was a chance to learn more about seaweed harvesting.

Teas uses Argentine seaweed in her own research on dietary uses of this product of the world's waters, so she had a particular interest in seeing its origins.

The best place to experience seaweed harvesting is in the area around Bahia Bustamante, a seaweed village that is now open as a tourist ranch resort. During her time there, Teas visited the seaweed processing plant in the town of Gaiman.

"We saw seaweed, the seaweed harvesting location, the seaweed processing plant," Teas said. "We stayed at Bahia Bustamante where the seaweed is harvested. It is also an eco-tourism retreat and is gorgeous."

Bahia Bustamente was once known as "Rotten Bay" for all of the seaweed that washed up there. A Spanish visitor named Don Lorenzo Soriano arrived in Patagonia in 1953 seeking to use seaweed ingredients for the production of hair gel. He established a seaweed-harvesting village there, which claims to be the first of its kind in the world, and it's now open to visitors.

The location is picturesque and home to all sorts of wildlife and birds including penguins. Teas delighted in the setting, and the creatures.

"We saw penguins, seals, Rhea birds and guanacos - sort of deer-like creatures," she wrote. "The water was very cold, but we did briefly try swimming with the penguins."

Seeing where seaweed - including dietary seaweed - comes from is one of the main attractions in Bahia Bustamente, and the thing that has brought fame to this part of the Patagonian coast.

Travelers come to see the beaches awash in seaweed, and the methods to harvest it: by taking it off the land, by diving into the water and by launching nets.

Teas says she eats seaweed in capsule form as a dietary supplement, but also knows of people who make seaweed cookbooks. One such person is Prannie Rhatigan, a friend of hers who lives in Ireland and is author of a western-palate-friendly seaweed cookbook. The Irish coast is also a seaweed-harvesting hot spot.

Turns out, there's lots of ways to make seaweed part of your diet. Rhatigan's seaweed cooking guides discuss how to include the greens of the deep in foods like salads and soups, as well as incorporate them into pasta dishes and baked goods. Many people may also be familiar with seaweeds from dishes like sushi and Japanese seaweed salads.

Teas says she is fascinated with the possible health benefits of seaweed and studies the ways it differs from land plants.

"Many people consider the minerals in seaweed to be like an all-natural vitamin pill," she says.

Are you a fan of seaweed cooking? We'd love to hear from you. And if you've been to Argentina and Patagonia, we're curious what you would recommend and what you've enjoyed. Share what you think a traveler should eat, and any food-related adventures you've had in the comments area below.

CNN's Destination Adventure series takes a look at great places for eager explorers. Each week, we'll feature favorite regional foods, secrets from the locals and the best photos and stories from readers. Have you been to Patagonia or Argentina? Share your story with CNN iReport. And next week, we'll journey to Morocco.

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Filed under: Argentina • Destination Adventure • Travel

soundoff (38 Responses)
  1. Sheila Jacaman

    Very interesting about the seaweed in Argentina, I have traveled there to buy grape concentrate and taste wines but not for seaweed. I manufacture Divina Natural, a natural and organic skin care line with a base of seaweed, Irish Moss Powder. Divina Natural's anti-aging line uses Padina Pavonica, a brown seaweed from Malta. I also use Kelp, Bladderwrack and Irish Moss Powder in my treatment line because these stimulate the lymphatic system. I take LIMU Moui, a seaweed from Tonga, for its' nutrients and FUCOIDAN. I am partial to seaweed for its' anti-oxidant properties and how it boosts the auto-immune system. Thanks CNN for posting on seaweed.

    October 20, 2011 at 12:17 am |
    • Art

      Consumption of seaweed for vibrant health is not some current fad or new idea. For 1,000's of years, many Asian cultures have attributed their long life spans and overall good health to their daily intake of sea vegetables. Seaweed as a staple item of diet has been used in Japan and China since prehistoric times. In fact, seaweed has been part of the traditional diet of all coastal cultures, including the people of Japan, Korea, China, Iceland, Sweden, Wales, Scotland, Hawaii, and the South Pacific Islands.

      I've been taking a seaweed supplement for the past 5 years and I have not been sick since. Every since I can remember I would always get the flu and really bad soar throat at least once a year during the months of November through January. I'm not saying that it is a cure-all for everyone but you can't argue with the fact that the cultures that consume seaweed on a daily basis have a lower mortality rate.

      November 6, 2011 at 10:58 pm |
  2. Colleen

    Some people need to be careful about eating seaweed. Seaweed is monosodium glutamate (MSG) in its natural form. American food processors/manufacturers have, since the 1950's, used MSG in their products, and they are now adding sea salt (the same thing) to their foods of all kinds to enhance the flavor. The difference is that they are also claiming on the packaging that there is no MSG in the product, just good old, healthy sea salt. In fact, most foods that are canned have been using MSG in them for years ("hydrolyzed vegetable protein" and "natural flavors," anyone?). There is a problem with sea salt (MSG), natural or manmade. For one, it can cause "Peking Duck" syndrome which duplicates heart-attack symptoms. The chest pains are terrible and there is nothing a doctor can do to take away the pain and it lasts for up to four days after ingestion. I know because I've been rushed to the hospital a couple of times and suffered for three years with constant chest pains (until I figured out what the problem was) because I was eating canned tuna and ranch dressing in my three-bean salad. Everyone should read, "In Bad Taste: The MSG Symptom Complex" by George Schwartz, enumerating effects, symptoms and the names for MSG that food manufacturers are using to hide that they are using MSG. More information regarding the health risks of sea salt can be found in "The Slow Poisoning of America" by T. Michelle Erb, and "Excitotoxins: TheTaste That Kills" by Russell Blaylock, Sea salt, the latest fad with a healthy-sounding name, is the same bad stuff as the old-fashioned MSG. Some people will seem to have no problem with eating it. According to the people who have researched MSG, everyone is poisoned by MSG even though they may not suffer the symptoms right away. Others of us can actually have difficulty breathing and worse as soon as we have taken one bite. Even Whole Foods is putting sea salt in almost everything with their brand on it. It's just adulterating the food we eat so the food seems to taste better and we eat more of it. Eating more food is what the food manufacturers want...they want to sell us their canned and dried food that we probably wouldn't ever eat if we could taste it without sea salt (MSG). Without MSG in canned tuna and salmon, nobody would ever eat the fish with the metal taste from the can. I believe that seasalt is the cause of many illnesses people are experiencing. Sea salt is being put in almost everything on the grocery shelves. I have to cook from scratch with only fresh products out of the ground or off a tree or bush to avoid sea salt or MSG. Oh, and I just learned one other fact. Except for one processor of soy milk that I have found, all the rest use sea salt (MSG) in their soy milk. I suppose that next, they will be adding sea salt to cane sugar for some reason I cannot fathom. I only hope they never put sea salt in regular old salt. Some of us would just die.

    October 4, 2011 at 3:25 pm |
  3. jdoe

    Big deal. Go to any Asian grocery store. Look in the Japanese or Korean section. Find all kinds of dried or frozen seaweed. It's been consumed for centuries and widely available for decades. No need to travel to faraway places.

    October 4, 2011 at 4:32 am |
  4. charls

    the mystique of seaweed or any other natural substance. So many people want to beleive that a magic, secret substance exist with a magical properties that just exist in nature that exists to save them. Chemical are chemicals no matter their source whether in a laboratory or nature. I wish for magical substances but alas chemicals are just chemicals. Try to eat natural goods with the least taint of humans; just eat organic foods and you will do the best that you can. Eat the foods that have been the least processed and you will do do the best for your body.

    October 4, 2011 at 1:05 am |
  5. Marty in MA

    Argentina is on my bucket list of places to visit someday, but not for the seaweed.I t is supposed to be quite inexpensive and quite beautiful.

    October 3, 2011 at 5:39 pm |
    • Brian

      Marty, you must go to El Calafate and visit the glaciers. They are AMAZING – probably the best in the world. And the people down south are so much more hospitable than in the cities.

      October 3, 2011 at 5:45 pm |
    • wilton

      Been there, own house in the north. Hint: it is a lot like Italy. You can safely drink the water anywhere. Argentina appears to be owned and controlled by the Vatican. Being Catholic... literally... appears to be required of their president so they convert when needed. In the past, the leaders would take all the Argentina money, send it to Switzerland (aka Bank of the Vatican). All true, which explains the well documented movement after ww2 of certain folks to Argentina. Odd but true.

      October 4, 2011 at 11:00 am |
  6. Dave S

    >>"Many people consider the minerals in seaweed to be like an all-natural vitamin pill," she says.<<

    Seaweeds vary in their nutrient content, but are generally similar to ordinary dark-green leafy veggies at similar serving sizes. Very good, but not unique in that regard.

    October 3, 2011 at 5:09 pm |
    • Marie

      Actually, they are comparatively high in iodine and other trace minerals. Seaweed extract was one of those supliments that sold out of stock when the Japanese nuclear plant melted down last spring.

      October 3, 2011 at 5:15 pm |
  7. Just Me

    There's no apostrophe in "Secrets", it's just plural.

    October 3, 2011 at 4:36 pm |
    • Dillweed

      It's a contraction .... oh he!!, never mind.

      October 3, 2011 at 5:04 pm |
    • mary

      NOT plural in that sentence but the contraction for Secret Is in the seaweed so it's / it is correct .

      October 3, 2011 at 5:18 pm |
  8. Paul

    I love sea weed. I love in salad, sushi, rice snacks, etc.

    October 3, 2011 at 4:35 pm |
  9. Ignacia Labbé

    u need to go "los comedores abiertos" in Argentina, so for few money u can eat all day long...
    they are famous for steak and italian food, and it is really cheap (here in the southern cone of southamerica). Also, it is very important do not try it on the clothes, because people are very pasionate, so they get mad soon.

    October 3, 2011 at 4:35 pm |
    • Justin

      huh, WHAT!?

      October 3, 2011 at 4:44 pm |
    • PulTab

      What Justin said.

      October 3, 2011 at 5:11 pm |
    • mary

      " important do not try it on the clothes " ? ? ?
      What is ' it ' that we are Not suppose to try ?
      Very confusing piece of advice but please try again and be clear .

      October 3, 2011 at 5:13 pm |
    • Marie

      I think she means, food is cheap, but don't try to be cheap when buying/barganing for clothes, because the locals are passionate and will get mad at you quickly for being disrespectful.

      I think.

      October 3, 2011 at 5:26 pm |
  10. On the government

    I bet the government paid her to go research this crap, and she got a free swimming trip with penguins out of it.

    October 3, 2011 at 4:28 pm |
    • Marie

      and if she discovers a cure for cancer in seaweed (like digitalis for heart conditions in the flower, foxglove), don't you want it to be available? What is wrong with some holier-than-thou people?

      October 3, 2011 at 5:13 pm |
    • Jane Teas

      Actually I paid for the government funding at all. I just like to know where the seaweed I use comes from. And the seaweed from Argentina is wild, so it has lots of chemical defenses that the cultivated/coddled seaweeds grown in Japan and Asia don't need, since they are so carefully nurtured. Bahia Bustamante is at least 50 miles from the nearest source of urban pollution, so the sea and the seaweed is cleaner, at least from industrial pollutants. I think knowing as much as possible about where the seaweed comes from is very helpful, and I am sure it makes a difference in its cancer-preventive properties.

      October 7, 2011 at 9:35 am |
  11. C. Barber

    Best thing I saw in Argentina were the penguins. They were fascinating!

    October 3, 2011 at 4:15 pm |
    • Justin

      If that's the best thing you saw in Argentina, I'll suggest you open both eyes next time you go. Thanks

      October 3, 2011 at 4:46 pm |
      • KWDragon

        Are you an Argentinian troll or just a garden variety one?

        October 3, 2011 at 6:08 pm |
  12. lil_d

    Seriously? "Argentina – secret's in the seaweed"? SECRET'S?!? Did the redneck illiterate plural get so far as to be presented in the media as normal?

    October 3, 2011 at 3:53 pm |
    • Dillweed

      It's a contraction, you know, like your mom had giving birth to you about 10 years ago. Without the contraction, it would read, "... the secret is in the seaweed" and it perfectly correct. Go holier-than-thou somewhere else.

      October 3, 2011 at 3:58 pm |
      • lil_d_in_ok

        then that would require a "the" before "secret". Upset much? chip on your shoulder?

        October 4, 2011 at 7:30 am |
      • Dillweed

        Not upset at all. If you go to CNN's main page, you'll find your "the" there. You seem to be the only chip, Chip. HAND.

        October 4, 2011 at 7:41 am |
  13. Ben Bergwerf

    When I lived in Swansea, South Wales, I was introduced to "Laverbread" a local dish made from seaweed and served with local cockles and fried in bacon fat augmented with several other additives depending on taste.. It is an acquired taste, and a quite nutritious dish.

    October 3, 2011 at 3:44 pm |
    • Justin

      I've tried laverbread cake while in Wales and I must say, it wasn't that bad. I think that what scared me was the way it looks but it tastes good.

      October 3, 2011 at 4:50 pm |
  14. Rock N Roll Health School

    I use seaweed a lot in cooking – add it to nearly all my soups and sauces. Mostly kelp/kombu or wakame. It doesn't have much, if any, taste but adds tons of minerals and helps me stay grounded and focussed. Also keeps my carb cravings in check.

    October 3, 2011 at 3:40 pm |
  15. jbdip31

    I went on a cruise to St. John's NB in Canada and was introduced to dulse which is just raw harvested, unadultered dark purple seaweed that is dried out and eaten in lots of different ways. I grabbed a bag of it and just snacked on it during the rest of the cruise. My wife and son hated it but some of my in-laws liked it (the more adventurous of the group). When I got home and ran out, I bought some on-line from Maine and I put it in my salads all the time. Great stuff.

    October 3, 2011 at 3:39 pm |
  16. Floyd

    Seaweed is a good source of antibiotics like Kelp for Keflex.

    October 3, 2011 at 3:25 pm |
  17. greenbird321

    Aside from sushi, and having seaweed in miso soup, I'm addicted to "seaweed snacks": dried, salted strips of nori in handy little packs...sooo good!

    October 3, 2011 at 1:57 pm |
  18. Sea Daweed

    There are various species of seaweed and like other plants, they have different textures and tastes and therefore different uses. For instance the seaweed added to ice cream products would not be present in a Japanese seaweed salad. It would have been interesting to state what kind was collected and which way(s) it was processed. Was it processed into a powder for commercial food concoctions and makeup or what?

    October 3, 2011 at 11:46 am |
    • Sheila Jacaman

      Interesting question, I am curious about the kind of seaweed in Argentina as well. Great resource is "Seaweed" by Valerie Cooksley, she describes many different seaweed varieties and sources, many of whom I have contacted and are quite helpful.

      October 20, 2011 at 12:23 am |
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