5 Ways to Enjoy Seaweed, Marin’s Most Healthy Oceanic Ingredient

Hog Island Oyster Farm

What does Marin taste like? If pressed to define the essence of this rugged scrap of land, do your senses evoke fog-drenched cypress and bay trees? Fresh-cut grass? Cow manure?

To these sensory experiences, consider adding seaweed as a definitive taste of Marin, one that captures the intertidal and saltwater essences impacting our peninsular landscape. Marin businesses and beyond have discovered our county’s “hidden” bounty, finding new ways to add deliciousness to the food and drink on our tables. A world of intertidal, oceanic discovery awaits.

A Marin Gin

Marin Coastal Gin

When Scott Jampol of Sausalito Liquor Company sought to craft a local spirit that was “really Marin,” he looked to the landscape. And to gin. “We wanted to make a spirit that tastes like you were indisputably standing in Marin,” Jampol says. Working with master distiller Steve Wright of Thoroughbred Spirits Group in Canada and Heidi Herrmann of Santa Rosa’s Strong Arm Farm, Jampol scoured the county for Marin’s inherent flavors. Juniper, gin’s flavorful backbone, is endemic to Marin, a natural starting point. Marin’s backyard gardens of lemon, orange and other citruses round out the palate of Jampol’s Marin Coastal Gin. With other botanicals sorted, a component from the ocean, a must for this gin, was the missing piece. 

Nori, foraged from the Marin and Sonoma coasts, held the answer. Along with angelica seed and other botanicals, the final distillate is redolent of citrus with a hint of saltiness from the seaweed. “Seaweed adds a silky mouthfeel,” Jampol says. Herrmann liked nori’s mild character. “It adds a nice nuttiness,” she says. “There’s a distinct sweetness on the finish, too.” 

Does the gin capture Marin’s wild beauty? After hiking a double Dipsea, stop in at Sausalito Cruising Club for a glass of Marin Coastal Gin on the rocks and a chat with Jampol. Look for him behind the bar on Monday nights.

A Walk on Seaweed’s Wild Side

Maria Finn on Lummi Island
Maria Finn holds up fresh sea lettuce.

Searching out Marin’s native seaweed varietals is as easy as meeting Maria Finn. Finn, who runs Flora & Fungi Wild Food Adventures in Sausalito, runs wild food camps up and down the Pacific Coast, including urban foraging and morel hunting. Seaweed camps, which Finn runs at Muir Beach, demand shoes fit for scrambling along the rocks. The intertidal zone is where you are headed — that’s where Finn runs camps during seaweed’s peak season, roughly early May to late July. 

When Finn and I met on a foggy April morning at low tide, we walked a short distance across the sand to the beach’s rocky outcroppings. With the waves crashing a few feet away, we chose bare rocks as steps, meandering amidst what appeared to be moss-covered stones. Finn soon stopped to show me the native nori, bladderwrack, sea lettuce and kelp (kombu). Wakame, an invasive species, was also plentiful. 

We tasted seaweeds as we moved along, some rubbery and metallic, others soft and pleasantly saline. I quickly sorted out why nori is sought after by Jampol and others: It grows here in large, thin sheets, has a delicate texture on the palate (even when wet), and a pleasant minerality. “It’s covering most of the rocks here,” Finn says, confirming its suitability to thrive in Marin’s waters. Completing the sustainable circle, adventurers who collect seaweed with Finn can use her cookbook, Forage.Gather.Feast, as a guide to process and prepare their bounty at home. 

Nutritive Value of Seaweed 

Rootless Bedtime Supplement
The Rootless bedtime supplement.

With foragers’ help, seaweed’s nutritive value and role in regenerative agriculture is gaining momentum. It was while doing research on climate adaptation in Kiribati — a remote, wild country in the southwestern Pacific Ocean whose highest point is 3 meters (9.8 feet) — that Sachi Singh, Founder/CEO of Rootless, had her seaweed epiphany. “I was intrigued by seaweed and what it could do for people and the planet,” Singh says. Seaweed, a family with over 12,000 member species, is widely considered a superfood. No matter the species, it’s dense with high-quality protein, trace minerals like manganese and copper, fatty acids, vitamins and iodine. 

Rootless’s core product, The Daily Bite, balances seaweed’s polyphenols, antioxidants, and fiber with a seed mix and dates in a jax ball-sized nugget. Each bite blends laver (a.k.a. wild Atlantic nori) and other seaweed varietals to achieve the correct level of iodine and other nutrients and build resiliency into her regenerative supply chain. “We call it ‘the Goldilocks amount’ or ‘the sweet spot’ — not too much, not too little,” Singh says. “It’s a food-based supplement.” 

There are five flavors of The Daily Bite, each containing 184 mcg of iodine to support thyroid function, metabolism and other bodily functions. Though Singh’s business is based in San Francisco, to get the supply of nori she needs for her supply chain, she sources from Maine and Ireland. Seaweed farming requires no fresh water, pesticides or fertilizer, a healthy food with a low environmental footprint. 

You can find Rootless at Epicurean Trader and at spas, juice bars and health stores across the country. 

Seaweed for Cattle

Marin’s milk shed is also in on utilizing the regenerative benefits of seaweed. At Straus Family Creamery, founder and CEO Albert Straus is working with a variety of seaweed, aspergopsis taxiformis (also known as red sea plume or limu kohu), to reduce enteric methane emissions from his farm’s cattle by as much as 95%. “We were the first commercial trial in the United States in 2021,” says Straus. 

Grown in the subtropics, and in tanks in Hawaii, red sea plume is added to Straus’s cattle’s diet at the rate of ¼ pound in a 45-pound diet. Straus does the math with me: With 270 cows milking per day, that’s 54 pounds of seaweed a day x 365 days a year or about 20,000 pounds of seaweed per year. His farm and others around the country are awaiting FDA approval to recognize the seaweed as a cattle supplement but his plan is to have enough seaweed in the supply chain to feed 50,000 cows. Do the math to figure out the methane reduction and you’ll understand why Straus insists that livestock and their diet are essential partners to reduce climate change. Will consumers taste this component of carbon farming in the company’s organic milk? If so, the taste of Marin just got a little cooler. (And I mean that literally and figuratively.)

Who Harvests Seaweed in Marin?

Harvesting at Hog Island Oyster Farm
Baskets of Hog Island oysters emerge from Tomales Bay covered in nori.

Other than Finn and Herrmann, there are few businesses that can source enough seaweed from Marin to make the product viable for sale. One of them is Hog Island Oyster Company in Marshall. The company, which leases tidelands in Tomales Bay from the Fish and Game Commission (which works in concert with California Department of Fish and Wildlife to manage aquaculture leases), harvests millions of oysters each year. 

When pulling up the gear for oyster harvesting, Hog’s teams noticed that attached seaweeds were coming out of the water on the harvest baskets. “We petitioned to amend our lease to include the harvesting of seaweeds (macroalgae) that settle on our gear,” says Remy Anthes, Creative Marketing Manager at Hog. “The new arrangement simply allows us to intentionally harvest those same seaweeds for culinary or other purposes and can be considered a ‘secondary harvest to the oysters.”

Anthes estimates that, since 2023 when the program began, they pull out a few hundred pounds (wet) of seaweed, mostly nori, each year. A grant from the SOAR program, administered by The Nature Conservancy’s Global Aquaculture Program is being used specifically to develop a drying greenhouse for seaweeds. The result? Fresh and dried seaweeds for the company’s restaurants. 

At Hog’s commissary kitchen in Petaluma, chefs are exploring how to best use their harvest. In The Hog Island Book of Fish & Seafood, recipes include different types of seaweed and the team is further investigating products such as seaweed salt with their saltworks, different seasonings for the oyster bars, and miso-nori butters.

One of the drink ideas, from Beverage Director Saul Ranella, is the “Merroir” Martini. Ahead of the seaweed cocktail trend, Ranella’s drink is a mini tasting experience of Tomales Bay, served with one of Hog’s sweetwater oysters and a nori puff. The drink is available in the San Francisco and Larkspur restaurants.

The Merroir Martini

Merrior Martini


  • Merroir Martini: paired with Hog Island Oyster Co Sweetwater oyster
  • 2 oz Merroir-Influenced Gin
  • 1 oz Oceans Vesper Blend (recipe follows)
  • 1 ea Lemon
  • 1 ea HIOC Sweetwater Oyster
  • Large Ice Cube
  • Smoked Salmon Roe
  • Combine gin, Oceans Vesper Blend, and ice in a shaker; stir for 1 minute.

Add dehydrated Nori seaweed to the bottom of the rocks glass. Place a large clear ice cube on top and pour in mixture.

Zest 1-inch-wide lemon skin and express oils over the entire cocktail. On the same zested skin, place a generous amount of smoked salmon roe and position on cocktail. Serve with the oyster.

Oceans Vesper Blend

  • 2 parts – Accompani Blue Dorris Liquor
  • 2 parts – Tempus Fugit Kina L’Aero d’Or Aperitif
  • 1 part – Dry vermouth (Dolin)
  • 1 part – Lillet Blanc Aperitif
  • Combine all ingredients; stir.