Seaweed Harvesting

Posted by Colleen Bones on

Seaweed Harvesting

I look forward to harvesting seaweed in northern california every year. Typically during the mornings in the spring and early summer, when the minus tides occur around the new moon and full moon. 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. For ultimate nutritional value eat seaweed fresh off the rocks! Have a beach picnic and bring along a pot of cooked sushi rice. Cut the fresh seaweed into small pieces and marinate in soy sauce for about 10 min. Serve over the sushi rice and garnish with sesame oil, sriracha, avocado and lemon. If you feel extra adventurous during the minus tide, try poke poling too! (youtube videos on how to make a simple pole). Inter tidal fish are underneath the exposed rocks in pools. Fish such as monkey face eel and rockfish are especially delicious. 
What to Bring:
  • Backpack
  • Field Guide
  • Shoes that can get wet (tevas, five fingers)
  • Heavy Duty Plastic bags with handles (I found this is the easiest way to hold wet and sometimes heavy seaweed while scaling jagged rocks) cut a few very small knife holes at the bottom allow drainage. 
  • Gloves
  • Clippers/knife
  • Small colander (collapsible is convenient)
  • Jacket/Sunscreen (you just never know)
  • 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 intertidal zones. Bladderwrack accounts for more than half of the seaweed between Alaska and central California. Bladderwrack is highly nutritive and 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. Bladderwrack is very mucilaginous, especially the swollen reproductive tips.This is the ideal time to harvest. Cut off the swollen tips leaving the stems attached to the rocks. Lay out the tips by spreading them on a drying screen. Bladderwrack can also 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! See recipe below. 
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 intertidal zone. Usually found on the rocks growing alongside nori. Thin, edible. delicious. Pull gently from the rock to harvest. Rinse thoroughly in the sea water with your colander before drying to remove sand and shellfish. High in iron, protein, minerals and vitamins. 
Kombu: Firm blue black blades with arching stems hover over the waters edge in the lowest intertidal zone. The flat shiny blades immerse themselves in the swirling currents. Trim each blade 2-3 inches above the stipe, just above where the "fingers" are divided to ensure the continued growth of our native Kombu. Then hang or lay out on screen to be dried as quickly as possible in the sun. It will ooze a thick clear gel as it warms. Nutritive and 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 (adds minerals, softens and flavors) and makes a fine pickle. Kombu eliminates heavy metals and radiation from our bodies. Baths in Kombu calms the nerves and can be used interchangeably with the Japanese variety. 
Dulce: Dulce is a deep red and tender seaweed that grows in the mid intertidal zone and adds a unique flavor that perfectly complements eggs, vegetables, rice. A perfect mineral rich salt replacement. 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, soup, stew or chowder. Dulse softens quickly and gradually dissolves. Harvest by pulling the longer blades from the rocks leaving the shorter blades for regeneration. Spread out on screens to dry as quickly as possible. You will need the whole day to dry so if you harvested in mid day, hold the crop overnight and spread it out to dry in the morning.
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.
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 intertidal zone unless you know how to swim.

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 for about an hour or so before slicing into bars. Enjoy!
Kombu with Beans
Kombu helps to soften the beans, thickens the broth and adds minerals that helps with digestion. Add a four to six inch strip of kombu to your large pot of beans. 
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 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.
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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