The magic of my weekend on Lopez Island at Spencer Spit State Park with Passionate Nutrition learning about seaweed harvesting is waning as I reach into the now slimy bag of cold Nereocystis luetkeana (bull kelp) fronds to hang them on a line to dry. However, my eye is on the prize: mineral-rich dried seaweed that will go into all my food for a year.
You know what’s great? The fronds (harvested sustainably, of course!) from one bull kelp are enough seaweed for one person for a year. Neat, right?
You know what else is neat? All seaweed is edible.* Some apparently doesn’t taste as good as others but it won’t kill ya – very freeing. Plus, you can eat it straight from the sea. No rinsing necessary, or really even desired. How did I not know this already?!?
What did I mean by harvested sustainably? As Jennifer Adler, owner of Passionate Nutrition and our intrepid leader for the weekend says, “just give seaweed a haircut.” A nice visual for: don’t rip it out by the roots (holdfast for you seaweed experts).
When foraging bull kelp fronds in particular, be careful not to cut the stipe, which is the long cord that attaches the fronds to the holdfast or the bulbous float, which is filled with CO2 and keeps the fronds floating on the surface of the water. Cutting either of those will kill the kelp.
I don’t want you to think you can only harvest seaweed from a kayak. The following day we harvested seaweed at low tide on Agate Beach and had the good fortune of seeing a red octopus chasing crabs through the seaweed. There we harvested sugar kelp, sea lettuce, nori, Turkish towel (good for scrubbing), and rockweed to name a few. Remember, before you harvest to take a look around to see if the area is healthy. One with no open sewer systems, and a variety of seaweed present. For instance, if only sea lettuce, one of the hardier seaweeds, is present it means the ecology has been compromised – look for diversity to find a healthy ecosystem.
Seaweed-ize that Meal
One of the best things about the weekend was learning how easy it is to incorporate seaweed into every meal. So easy. All the meals included seaweed and special recipes weren’t needed. Just create a salad as usual then add powered seaweed to the dressing or fresh seaweed to the salad itself or bake it into bread, muffins, falafel – you name it. Other than the chopped fresh kale in our oatmeal and the nori wraps, I would not have known there was seaweed in every dish if Jennifer hadn’t pointed it out before each meal.
Most of us think of sushi or Japanese dishes when we think of eating seaweed. And, even though my husband and I enjoy seaweed salads from Uwajimaya, in Seattle, neither of us had thought to use seaweed in all our meals. What an eye-opener – to think some of the most mineral-dense food can be part of every meal. Many nutritionists call seaweed a superfood as it’s hard to get the trace minerals our bodies need in any other food. Minerals such as iodine, which is great for protecting our bodies against radiation in the atmosphere (apparently Fukushima’s radiation has drifted over to the Pacific NW).
Kale is groovy but kelp has my vote. Got kelp?
Oh, and I couldn’t seem to help myself — I made Got Kelp? t-shirts (you know just a little something for the gym). You CAN’T get you’re very own to let people know why you’re kicking their butts — you’re kelp-powered because the attorneys for “got milk?” are threatening to sue. I guess no one can use “got__?” that sentence has been removed from the English language – I’m looking into their copyright claim.
*Seaweed should be harvested far away from populated areas to reduce the amount of pollutants it absorbs. Like all living things, seaweed ingests pollutants right along with the air and water it inhabits. For those of us in King and Kitsap counties Jennifer suggested we harvest north of Port Townsend. “Poof!” My daydream about harvesting right off the shores of Bainbridge Island disappeared.