The origin and much of wakame seaweed’s history is found in Asia, especially in Japan. Native to cold temperate coastal areas of Japan, Korea, and China, in recent decades Wakame has become established in temperate regions around the world, including New Zealand, the United States, Belgium, France, Great Britain, Spain, Italy, Argentina, Australia and Mexico.
Sea vegetables have played an important role in the eating habits of the Japanese people, and excavations have shown these plants to have been consumed as far back as ten thousand years ago in Japan. The oldest existing anthology of Japanese poetry, the Manyoshu (written in the 8th century), contains references to seaweed as a special dish served in sacred services or used as an offering to nobility. At that time it was not available for daily consumption, it was only after the 17th century that ordinary people could obtain and eat Wakame seaweed.
Wakame cultivation was first studied at Dalian, northeast China, by Youshiro Ohtsuki who patented cultivation techniques in 1943. Since the mid-1960s wakame seaweed has been extensively farmed there at a commercial level. In the Republic of Korea, cultivation of wakame began in 1964, and was largely developed, promoted and industrialized in the 1970s, accounting for 30% of seaweed farming production in 2013.
In China, extensive production started in the mid-80s, mainly in two northern provinces which have since become the main Wakame production areas worldwide. Consumption of this macroalgae as a seafood is divided in two categories; the processed midribs are consumed inside China, while the sporophylls and blades are mainly exported to Japan and other Asian countries.
In 1983, Wakame farming was deliberately introduced into the North Atlantic in the coastal areas of Brittany and initially cultivated at three sites. Wakame cultivation is also being developed in Northwest Spain.
In 2010, the New Zealand government approved commercial harvest and farming of wakame under certain conditions.
Pacific Harvest offers 2 varieties of Wakame:
- Farmed Wakame – cultivated in China by a Japanese company. High quality & tested. Dried & cut into bite-size pieces, ideal for soups & salads. Farmed fronds will re-hydrate to a lovely green colour in a few minutes when soaked in tepid water, expanding 10 times more than that of their dry weight.
- NZ Wild Wakame Leaves – harvested by hand from the wild in NZ. The full leaves are dried naturally and will expand ~ 6 times when soaked. The colour varies from dark green to kaki and the leaves are great for wrapping.