If you’ve been under the impression that Irish moss and sea moss are the same thing, don’t worry, you’re not alone. Many people believe the terms ‘Irish moss’ and ‘sea moss’ are interchangeable. However, that’s not accurate. Despite the confusion, sea moss and Irish moss are two different things.
Irish moss, or Chondrus Crispus, is a species of algae. It most typically grows in cooler climates, including Europe and Canada. During the Irish potato famine, Irish moss was eaten in abundance - hence the name. Irish moss has flat leaves, and is typically a dark purple color.
Sea moss is a more generic term, but typically when you see it used it’s referring to is genus gracilaria. This is thinner and more stick-like. It comes in a variety of colors.
The two are often confused, partly due to the abundance of sea moss versus the rarity of Irish moss. It’s possible that if you’ve searched for Irish moss before you’ve been directed instead to sea moss. There’s also a popular variety of gracilaria that’s purple, Jamaican purple sea moss, which is sometimes mistaken for Irish moss.
There are enough similarities between the two that which one you buy isn’t that important. While fans might argue for the mineral content of Irish moss, the price makes it unattainable for many. You also have to be sure of the supplier, as unaware sellers may try to pass off gracilaria as Irish moss.
What is the difference between seaweed and sea moss?
There isn’t a difference between seaweed and sea moss, because they’re essentially the same thing. What we think of as sea moss is in fact a type of seaweed. This is because seaweed is an umbrella term. There’s no formal definition of what seaweed is and what it isn’t.
Seaweed is a term used to refer to a whole range of different types of marine plants. Some of these are microscopic, such as phytoplankton. Others are giant, and form underwater forests.
Most are average in size, come in colors such as red, green, and brown, and are what we see washed up on the beach. Due to the wide reach of this term, there can be confusion as to the relation of plants within the term seaweed.
As seaweed comes in such abundant varieties, there are numerous health benefits associated with its consumption. Not only is it a vital part of the underwater ecosystem, but many seaweeds are rich in nutrients. Some even have cancer-fighting properties! Varieties of seaweed are found in dishes across the globe.
As you can see, sea moss can therefore be considered a species of seaweed. However, sea moss itself is a fairly generic term, and is used to refer to a number of species of algae. Most commonly Genus Gracilaria and Chondrus Crispus. Essentially, when you buy sea moss you’re buying a type of seaweed. However, when you buy seaweed you won’t necessarily be getting sea moss.
Is sea kelp and sea moss the same?
Sea kelp and sea moss are not the same, although they do both fall under the same generic term of seaweed. Despite this, there is no relation between sea kelp and sea moss. They do, however, have similar uses.
Although it may sometimes be mistakenly used as a generic term, sea kelp does refer to a specific species. Sea kelp is a term used exclusively to describe brown seaweed known as Phaeophytes. It grows on the coast around the world, and is most commonly consumed in Asian countries. Although, it isn’t the same seaweed that’s found on sushi - that’s nori algae.
Sea kelp has its own range of nutritional benefits. It contains a variety of vitamins and minerals, but perhaps most importantly, it’s a source of iodine. Sea kelp can be eaten raw, cooked, or made into powders or supplements. Eating too much kelp can cause health problems, so it’s best consumed in moderation.
Sea moss is a species of seaweed, but it isn’t the same as sea kelp. It’s also no relation to land moss. The name instead refers to a visual similarity. Sea moss grows to a low height, and covers rocks in a carpet.
When buying sea kelp or sea moss it’s important to know what you’re getting. Something termed ‘seaweed’ can refer to a number of plants in the ocean. Always buy from trusted and reputable sellers. Check to make sure what you’re buying has been sustainably sourced.
What is gracilaria sea moss?
Gracilaria sea moss is the most commonly sold for consumption variety of sea moss. If you’re buying sea moss to make sea moss gel, this is likely what you’ll get. It’s a red algae that has gained popularity for its nutritional value.
It grows on rocks, but can also be farmed on ropes. Gracilaria grows in warmer climates, and can be found in a range of colors. Most typically, it’s golden with thin and firm fingers like strings. It can be farmed year round, which makes it cheaper and easier to purchase than other varieties of sea moss such as Irish moss.
Sea moss has grown in popularity over recent years, and is fast becoming known as a superfood. However, sea moss has been consumed for a long time, and its health benefits are well known.
Sea moss is high in nutrients and minerals, as it absorbs these from the surrounding water. This is why farmed sea moss is of the same nutritional quality as wild sea moss. You should always check that it’s been sustainably farmed.
Sea moss can be eaten on its own, but many prefer to incorporate it into other foods to mask the slightly salty taste. It can be purchased as is, or purchased ready-made into a gel.
There are other types of sea moss available, and they can be mislabelled. Irish moss is a popular, and more expensive, variety, that is different to gracilaria sea moss. All varieties have nutritional benefits.