WAKAME – History & Evolution

The origin and much of Wakame 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 much 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, and it was only after the 17th century that ordinary people could obtain and eat Wakame. It was then that Wakame gained popular attention as a food, and cookbooks printed during that period contain information on preparing Wakame dishes.
The same pattern of consumption appears to have developed in Korea. In the past, only naturally grown Wakame was eaten.

Wakame cultivation was first studied at Dalian, northeast China, by Youshiro Ohtsuki who patented cultivation techniques in 1943. After 1955, Wakame cultivation methods shifted and spread to various places in Japan, and since the mid-1960s it has been extensively cultivated 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 the 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.

New cultivars with properties such as high yield or high environmental adaptability have been developed by the traditionally crossbreeding method or through mutagenesis inducement in Asia countries China, Japan, and the Republic of Korea.

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. Will re-hydrate to a lovely green colour in a few minutes when soaked in tepid water and will expand 10 times.
  • 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.

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