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Multi-purpose Sea Weed

For the past month or so during my morning walks down the beach I could not help noticing the great amounts of seaweed on the shoreline. And that will not change because it has been drifting to our shores “Since Adam and Eve”, as my good friend Norman Eiley would say. And it will surely continue, “As sure as God made Moses”, Norman would add.

“Hola amigo” I said to my friend who rakes the beach every morning.

“Too much grass,” he responded.

“That is good for at least you have a job guaranteed,” I happily added.

“He questioned, “I wonder where all this grass comes from?

I suggested seaweeds live in the shallow waters of the oceans so the seaweeds we see on the beaches of San Pedro probably come drifting all the way from the coast of Africa across the Atlantic Ocean or from the Caribbean Islands like Cuba, Puerto Rico, Jamaica and others out there in the North Eastern Caribbean.

Does this seaweed have any good use?” he questioned.

“Well here in San Pedro we use it as land fill,” I explained. “But in days gone by, it was used as a good source of fertilizer. Mixed with sand or black soil, it is good fertilizer for coconut palms because of its high concentration of potassium.”

I am no expert in seaweeds but I told him that in some parts of the world seaweeds are used as emulsifiers and gelling agents. They end up being used in products like toothpaste, clothes dyes, salad dressing, flavored milks and even pizza toppings.

My friend’s eyes grew wide open and I did not want to confuse him, but I did mention that in Chile many locals along the coast include seaweeds in their seafood diets. They are seen as sea vegetables. I also pointed out that there are several hundred varieties of sea weeds and that we generally see about four kinds of seaweeds on our shores – the spiny looking one, the flat long blade, a brown kind, and one that appears to have leaves with small air bubbles.

“And do we have any seaweed variety that can be eaten in Belize,” my friend inquired.

“Yes,” I said. “Have you ever heard about this drink simply called seaweed?” We have these growing over many parts of Belizean waters. In fact, we have some very near Ambergris Caye.

The old folks used to bring it, dry it in the sun and moon, and then soaked it and processed it to make a delicious and nutritious drink with milk called seaweed. It is very thick so it must have a lot of gel. It is very tasty too. Some Garifunas (Caribs) used to make it for sale not too long ago on the island. I suggested to my friend that this would make a good drink for tourists to savor a unique Caribbean Exotic Drink.

This drink was considered to be an aphrodisiac 25 years ago, but my friend did not know what an aphrodisiac is. And that is where I left it, promising to talk about San Pedro aphrodisiacs another day.

What do you think, Norman, can you write a story on Island aphrodisiac for the folks? We can call it 25 years ago in Placencia. My readers would also enjoy a story on the candy called, “Stretch My Guts”, which used to be “stretch mi guts’ before you went to live in the States.

– by Angel Nuñez, Columnist

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