Limu Is Making a Comeback in Waimānalo. Here’s Where to Find Recipes.

The Waimānalo Limu Hui is cultivating limu and traditional practices, one planting at a time.


Limu kohu, wawae‘iole, limu manauea: Remember when fresh seaweed washed up on beaches, ready to be gathered and cooked? Overharvesting, urbanization, climate change and other factors have relegated the days of abundant limu to memory in many places, but now there’s reason for hope. Efforts to propagate different species are blooming around the state, and on O‘ahu at least, one is starting to take root.


Off Kaiona Beach along the curving sweep of Waimānalo Bay, the Waimānalo Limu Hui has been planting limu manauea, or ogo, the Japanese name it’s widely known by. Today, it’s the most common limu for poke. But early Hawaiians also chopped, salted and mixed it with meat or other seaweeds, according to The Limu Eater: A Cookbook of Hawaiian Seaweed.


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The reprint of Heather J. Fortner’s vintage 1978 collection came out last fall, chronicling 17 types of limu and 85 recipes for everything from pickles and salads to limu meatballs, tuna-tofu-limu patties and martinis with limu lipoa “olives.” The Limu Eater tells us that the other seaweed the hui has been planting, the bright red lepe ‘ula‘ula, Hawaiian for the rooster’s cockscomb it resembles, was used to thicken stews and soups. “It keeps well if dried rapidly in the sun and stored in a jar,” Fortner writes. “The tasty dried fronds can be served as a snack, somewhat like potato chips.”


The Limu Eater: A Cookbook of Hawaiian Seaweed

Find the cookbook through Photo: Aaron K. Yoshino


Plantings of both types of limu disappear within hours, the hui’s Ikaika Rogerson says, signs that the bay’s ‘oama, ‘omilu and other fish are eating them—and presumably distributing the spores westward with the currents, toward Bellows Beach. The hui is also working with Sea Life Park to raise huluhulu waena and ‘ekaha, seaweeds that do well in brackish water.


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“When it becomes abundant once again, people can harvest their own limu, like what we used to do years ago,” Rogerson says. “My hope is that a kūpuna could go buy limu ‘ele‘ele at Foodland so she can have that with her beef stew for her dinner. That would be an awesome goal. Why couldn’t that happen?”


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