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Superfoods – How to harvest seaweed

a vase full of water

Just got back from Galiano Island doing some foraging for Pilgrimme restaurant, they made this fabulous salad of mizuni, wild mint, elderflower vinaigrette, and fir tips that myself and a few other people collected for the chef that day, best salad I’ve had all year.  They also play a lot with seaweeds and I thought that you folk might be interested in learning a bit about how to harvest seaweed since we have so much of it on the Pacific coast and it’s so good for you.

How to harvest seaweed:

#1 Make sure the water quality is top notch, don’t harvest seaweed near marinas or urban centers. The further away from humans the better.

#2 Generally, it’s best to harvest seaweed when the water is cold and clear, in the summer the water can get muddy with river outflows and the flavour of the seaweed can suffer. It’s still okay to pick it in summer, but will taste better in cooler months. Some seaweeds are annuals like bullwhip kelp, so you can’t pick them in winter. Others, like rockweed can be picked throughout the year.

#3 Harvest seaweed ‘floating’ on the sea surface as a sustainable best practice. These are still alive and good for harvesting as long as they look fresh and healthy. The lower the tide the more species of seaweed you will be able to access.

#4 Harvest only a small amount, seaweed is home to a lot of other creatures that rely on it for food or for breeding grounds, make sure you’re not taking more than your share.

#5 Not all seaweeds are edible, make sure of your identification before choosing to consume.

Types of seaweed that are good to harvest for beginners:

Sea lettuce – (Ulva lactuca) – bright green and grows in thin sheets in the inter-tidal zone so it’s easy to pick at low tide.  A very clean tasting seaweed, not fishy, great in seaweed salad or add to ramen, congee or risotto for a colourful note of the sea.

Bull kelp – (Nereocystis luetkeana) – Very easy to identify but mostly you’d need a boat to harvest the live plant. Never pull the kelp out of the ground, just cut away a few blades that you’ll use and leave the rest.  Great texture, try pickling it.

bull kelp

All of these seaweeds are so good for you, full of antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, fiber… a superfood punch that’s very plentiful and under utilized on our coasts.

An amazing app for our area is Seaweed Sorter that can help you ID seaweeds that are new to you.

Here’s an instructional video on how to harvest sea lettuce…  Enjoy! – Chef Robin