The artificial cultivation of wakame, a brown algae related to kombu, is a growing industry in Japan. A technical understanding of wakame’s complex life cycle has enabled businessmen to grow young wakame in tanks and then transplant them to the ocean floor once they are mature enough to fend for themselves. The mature plants are then harvested by machine and dried by hot air.
Although rare, some wild wakame, such as Mitoku’s premium San-Riku Sun-Dried Wild Wakame, is still harvested in Japan. The remote fishing villages on the San-Riku coast of northeastern Japan are renowned for superb seafood. The cold Pacific waters are clean and clear, providing the perfect environment for wakame. The wild wakame from San-Riku has a vitality and depth of flavor that is unequaled by cultivated varieties. There is no fishy taste, and the fronds are particularly tender and tasty.
Around San-Riku, the wakame harvest takes place in early spring, from February until the end of March, as the plants reach maximum size, and before their leaves start to harden. The local fishermen go out in small boats and cut the seaweed by hand, using long, razor-sharp sickles to cut the stems. The wakame is brought back to land, briefly washed, then hung up to dry in the sun for several days until it is completely crisp and dry.