Sea moss grows naturally all over the world. Irish sea moss grows primarily along the Atlantic coast that spans Europe and North America. It’s commonly found on Irish coasts in particular, hence why it’s often referred to as Irish sea moss. It survives in other, colder European climates like Iceland, the Faroe Islands, and the Baltic Sea.
In the United States, it’s more common in the New England region but has been found surviving in sunny California too, and it’s known to exist along the warmer Iberian Peninsula and in the Caribbean. While the distribution of sea moss is global, including the distribution of Irish sea moss, there are areas where it’s easier to find and harvest.
As a rule, distributions of sea moss not native to the Northern Atlantic region must be verified, especially as there are similar sea moss species in the Pacific Ocean. For example, Irish sea moss has been recorded in Japan where Pacific sea moss and other seaweed variants would be more common. This also makes the moss procured from these regions more valued by some consumers, as it’s rarer.
With all these locations, the commonality is that sea moss will grow in low-tide areas with lots of rocks where the sea moss can thrive. Because of the natural conditions required, it’s difficult to artificially cultivate sea moss and this limits the supply of sea moss that can be harvested. This can drive up the price from some suppliers, especially if the moss is from a place where sea moss doesn’t commonly grow.
Where Does The Best Sea Moss Come From?
Everybody will have a slightly different idea on which sea moss is best. That said, most sea moss is harvested in the northeastern USA or northwestern Europe where it’s most abundant and easy to find. Sea moss from more exotic locations, the Caribbean in particular, is often marketed as being more unique and beneficial than sea moss from its expected locations. There is some truth to this as sea moss growing in the Caribbean, Spain, and other warmer shores are rarer and so harder to procure.
Of course, not everybody can go out, find, and harvest their own sea moss. That’s why many turn to suppliers who sell sea moss and other nutritious seaweeds for profit. If you’re in an area where sea moss can be found, try to go with a local operation that can cater to your needs and value your custom. If not, you should go with more established brands that are reviewed well. They should be known to provide genuine sea moss while following any legal restrictions that may be in place for their harvest area.
Some provide sea moss in pill or powder form. If they are naturally dehydrated, they should be fine. This would be through sunlight or a dehydrator that mimics the natural dehydration process and so leaves the moss and its nutrients relatively unchanged from the fresh stuff.
Where Can I Find Sea Moss?
You can find sea moss wherever it grows, though you’ll have more chance of finding it in areas where it grows more often. Whether that’s Ireland, Britain, Canada, or Maine, you’ll find sea moss along the coastlines of these regions. Given the limited availability of sea moss, it’s best to look for it in areas where it’s known to be popular over non-standard areas where small samples of sea moss may have been found.
We can’t farm sea moss effectively because it won’t grow on ropes and other artificial surfaces. It needs to grow on rocks, which is exactly where you should find it along the shore. Tide pools are a great place to find it, as well as beaches after a storm has dislodged and washed up any moss samples. It’s only harvested during the summertime, too, so those who harvest it try to make it last till the next year’s summer. For suppliers, it’s also worth the yearly trip as legitimate Irish sea moss can sell for a handsome sum.
You can recognize sea moss by looking at its shape. Irish sea moss will have a wide and fan-like top. It’s a type of seaweed, so expect leaf-looking formations that are waxy and vary in color. Irish sea moss can come in dark green, light yellow/gold, and light purple. It also smells much more than the other common sea moss that gets sold, like Genus Gracilaria, so you should get a nose for sea moss once you’ve encountered it before.
As an aside, harvesting any seaweed from questionable waters where industrial pollution may have occurred can be dangerous. There also may be harvesting restrictions in place or permit requirements, so make sure you know the local rules and any weight limits that may apply to your sea moss harvest.