Monday, May 7, 2012

Kelp and other seaweed snacks

Bountiful Sugar Wrack
One of the things that attracted me to the room we are renting was how enthusiastic our landlord (Casey) is about seaweed.  This weekend was our first opportunity to collect seaweed with Casey and the conditions were perfect.  When we arrived at Rosario Beach (near the spectacular tidal rapids at Deception Pass), the sun was shining brightly and the tide was negative and still falling.  We scooted past the barren pebble beach and on to the colorful jungle of tangled seaweeds that covered a near-by rocky point.  Pillow sized boulders on the upper beach were coated with Rockweed (Fucus gardneri) and plastered with half dried Nori (Porphyra sp).   Blades of Sugar Wrack (Saccharina latissima), Winged Kelp (Alaria marginata), Triple-rib Kelp (Cymathere triplicata), and Seersucker Kelp (Costaria costata) were just drying up.  Bull Kelp (Nereocystis luetkeana) was floating just off the shore and the Splendid Iridescent Seaweed (Mazzaella splendens) shimmered in the shallow pools.  As we rounded the corner, other fun species showed up like Sea Cabbage (Hedophllum sessile), Dead Man Fingers (Codium fragile) and some exotic looking coralline encrusting algae.  See WSU Beachwatchers for great pictures of Common Pacific Northwest Seaweeds.

Sun drying Nori on the Central Coast of BC
Casey focuses his collecting efforts on Rockweed bladders, which he likes to dry into a popcorn like snack.  Katrina collected two species of Nori and Sea Lettuce (Ulva sp.), and I went after Sugar Wrack, Bull Kelp and Sea Cabbage.  The Nori was different from the species that I am used to harvesting on the Central Coast of Canada with my mentor, Clan Chief Kwaxsistalla.

Kelp fronds drying on a line
We returned home with enough time to hang up the kelps and lay the smaller seaweeds on trays to dry in the sun or in the food dehydrator.  By sunset much of the kelp had already dried to a salty crisp that makes an irresistible snack that I look forward to eating for months to come.

Dried Rockweed
Dried Bullkelp fronds

Seaweed is filled with so much goodness, I hardly know where to begin.  Last month Katrina and I listened to seaweed guru Dr. Ryan Drum lecture on the virtues of eating seaweed.  He was full of shocking statistics, but one that really stuck with me was that 90 percent of North Americans are deficient in potassium.  We crave salt because our body can’t differentiate between sodium and potassium, but eating seaweeds is a great way of getting potassium.  You can read more about the health benefits of seaweeds on his website.
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