Seaweed Harvesting

Seaweed Harvesting

I look forward to seaweed harvesting every summer.  Typically in June, here in the PNW, when the tide is low and the rocks are exposed. Seaweed is a nutrient rich sea vegetable high in iron, calcium and iodine.  They are blood purifying and an excellent wild food to start incorporating into your everyday dishes.  If you feel extra adventurous you can try poke poling too (youtube videos on how to make a simple pole).  Inter tidal fish are underneath the rocks in pools.  Fish like monkey face eel and rockfish are especially delicious. 
What to Bring:
  • Backpack
  • Field Guide
  • Shoes that can get wet (tevas, five fingers)
  • Plastic bags with handles (I found this is the easiest way to hold wet and sometimes heavy seaweed while scaling jagged rocks)
  • Gloves
  • Clippers
  • Small colander (collapsible is convenient)
  • Jacket/Sunscreen
  • Lunch/Utensils 
  • Optional: Poke pole, tackle box, ice chest, ice, bait 
Seaweeds + Uses
Sea Palm: Easy to spot, they look like little palm trees on the rocks.  Strongly attached to the outer rocks.  Use scissors to cut the fronds from the thallus and leaving the stipe in place.  These "sea noodles" unique to the Pacific Northwest are good raw, toasted, sautéed, in soups and salads.  However, they are endangered on our coast so just sample a blade or harvest a very minimal amount. 
Bladderwrack:  A perennial Olive to tan to brown in color, upper to mid inter tidal zones. Baldderwrack accounts for more than half of the seaweed between Alaska and central California.  Can be very mucilaginous, especially the reproductive tips.  It is a well known herbal remedy used to balance metabolism because of its high iodine content.  The thyroid gland needs iodine to produce thyroids hormones which regulate our metabolism, circulation, immune system, energy level and sense of well being. This can be use topically to soothe strains, sprains, bruises and wonderful for the skin and fun to bathe with too.  
Bulb Kelp: High in salts, potassium chloride, protein, calcium, iron and zinc. Pickle the stipe into small rounds. This is an annual and best to cut only the leafy parts above the bulb to insure regrowth.
Sea condom: Olive to tan in color and found in mid to low intertidal zones forage spring to autumn.  Hollow gas filled sacs growing on the rocks.  Fun to eat and stuff with rice.  Cut the young pieces from the rocks.
Feather boa:  A long, gelatinous seaweed strip. Dark brown to olive green and up to 11 feet in length. Great to bathe with and for wrapping around your body and washing your back. Cut the tender young parts of the plant.   Becomes tender when cooked and the floats in soup are fun too. 
Cystoseira: Delicious pickled fresh from the sea.  Found in low to sub intertidal, usually in deeper water.  Can grow up to 15 feet in length.  Snip tips to harvest.  My favorite seaweed to pickle!
Nori: Over 20 different species in our area and that varies in color. a delicate perennial found mid high inter tidal zones.  Highest protein content (25-50%) High in Vitamins A,C & B1 contains calcium, iron, iodine, phosphorus, rich in unsaturated fatty acids and tarine, porphyran (a gel in nori) may inhibit tumor growth.  A versatile and delicious edible.  Pull gently from the rocks and rinse well in the sea water. Dry well in the sun, or toast lightly in the oven or cast iron pan.  Cool and crumble into flakes.  A true delicacy! High in iron, protein, minerals and vitamin.   
Turkish Towel: TEXTURED and red to brown in color. Use like a washcloth.  Oozes healing gels.  Great texture for exfoliating in the bath or shower.  
Sea Lettuce: Bright green, upper inner tidal zone.  Usually found on the rocks growing alongside nori. Thin, edible. delicious. Pull gently from the rock to harvest.  High in iron, protein, minerals and vitamins. 
Kombu: Firm blue black blades with arching stems hover over the waters edge.  The flat shiny blades immerse themselves in the swirling currents. Trim each blade 2-3 inches above the stipe to ensure the continued growth of our native Kombu. Then individually hang to be dried in the sun.  High in organic iodine, calcium and potassium, contains 9% protein, carotene, niacin, B complex, vitamin C.  An exceptional base for soups, stocks and sauces.  A great one to use in beans (softens and flavors). Makes a fine pickle.  Restorative and refreshing.  Kombu eliminates heavy metals from our bodies and radiation from our bodies.  Baths in Kombu calms the nerves and can be used interchangeably with the Japanese variety. 
Dulce: Dulce adds a unique flavor accents that perfectly complements eggs, vegetables, rice.  Dried dulse snipped with scissors into tiny pieces becomes a salty condiment which may be used to season anything.  Dulse is great sprinkled on salads, pizza (like anchovies), on or in omelettes or scrambled eggs (like bacon).  In a soup, stew or chowder, dulse softens quickly and gradually dissolves. 
Wakame: Brownish to olive colored perennial in lower to sub tidal zones.  Tasty and versatile.  Harvest with a knife or scissors to cut off the end of the blade leaving at least 3 ft above the sporophylls to ensure successful reproduction. 
Harvest the seaweed appropriately and immediately sea rinse in your colander to remove any sand and ocean fauna from the seaweed.

Warning: Although most seaweed is edible, the blue-green algae found in freshwater lakes and streams is very poisonous.  Seaweeds can concentrate undesirable metals (lead, cadmium, copper). Avoid seaweeds from heavily populated centers or industrial areas.  Seaweed washed/found on the shoreline may be rotting.  Acid Kelp: Poisonous and rare.  Turns other seaweeds white and dissolves them.  Use caution


Seaweed Recipes

Kids and parents alike will enjoy pickling seaweed!

Pickled Seaweed
A simple recipe for pickled seaweed: Fill a mason jar with fresh seaweed like cystoseira, 1/3 ACV, 1/3 soy sauce or tamari, 1/3 vinegar, 2 tablespoons sesame oil, red pepper flakes, fresh garlic, onion, ginger. Soooooo good! 
Allison's Seaweed Candy
Dy and roast handfuls of nori and/or seaweed in a hot, dry cast iron skillet.  This only takes a minute.  Juts leave your seaweed on the heat long enough to change color and become crispy.  Be careful not to burn it.  Roast any combination of nuts, and seeds in the same manner, sunflower, sesame, flax, and pumpkin seeds, almonds, cashew and walnut are great to use. Grind together in a blender or food processor the seaweed and 1/2 the seeds and nuts and enough.  Mix this together with the remaining seeds and nuts and enough brown rice syrup to hold it all together.  Add any extras such as candied ginger or dried fruits.  Spread onto a cookie sheet and cover with suran wrap and using a rolling pin and as much as your body wight roll into a flat sheet.  Spread the melted chocolate chips on top if you like and leaves in the fridge fro about an hour or so before slicing into bars. Enjoy!
So many ways you can use seaweed!  Try drying and making a powder to incorporate into smoothies or try making your own seaweed mask. 
Carefully move along the water's edge and locate holes under rocks.  Work the poke pole tip back into these holes and deep under rocky ledges Wait about 30 seconds to a minute before moving your bait to another area within the hole.  If you don't feel anything move to a different spot.  If a fish or eel bites your bait, simply pull back to set the hook and transfer the quarry to a net.  Most eels will throw the hook in a few seconds if not netted immediately.
Please remember to respect the ocean while harvesting seaweed and poke poling.  Always watch rising tides to be sure you can get back safely to shore. Do not venture into the inter tidal zone unless you know how to swim.
Dandelion Herbal Center by Jane Bothwell
Sea Vegetables: A Harvesting Guide and Cookbook by Evelyn McCoonaughey
Sea Vegetables Gourmet Cookbook and Wildcrafters Guide by Eleanor and John LeWallen
Mendocino Sea Vegetables

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