Monday, February 1, 2010

This Week in Nature: The 1st week in February - limu pahe'e

 What's Happening in Hawaii
during the 1st Week in February:

 A highly prized seasonal seaweed, limu pahe'e (Porphyra sp.), can usually be found this time of year, growing high on rocks in areas of heavy surf where fresh water mixes with ocean water. At other times of year, this limu seems to vanish, but actually it takes on a microscopic form, producing spores which will mature only in winter or early spring, when days are short and nights long. Pahe'e means "slippery" and very accurately describes the texture of the mature limu.

Hawaiians identified more than sixty kinds of edible limu, an indication of its importance in their diet. An old saying refers to seaweed as ka i'a lauoho loloa o ke kai, "the long-haired fish of the sea," and sometimes, especially for women, it replaced fish or other foods that were kapu. Limu pahe'e was so rare that it was reserved for ali'i and forbidden to commoners, but today related species are widely cultivated in northern Asia and can be found dried and packaged on the grocery shelf under the familiar Japanese name of nori.

Image and text from "Hawaii: A Calendar of Natural Events"
published by the Bishop Museum and Kamehameha Schools in 1989

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