One thing you need to do before you harvest seaweed is to get a license from the Department of Fish and Wildlife. You should also check the local area rules, know the limits, and use the right tools. Generally there is a weight limit of 10 pounds but check with your local area to be sure. Seaweed is nutritious and good to eat if harvested safely.
When to Harvest Seaweed
When harvesting seaweed, make sure that it is not in the summer. When it gets hot, especially in July or August, the beach is strewn with seaweed that has washed up. It is smelly and slowly rotting; not very appetizing. By summer they are settling into old age and ready to be harvested. Most seaweed will grow fastest from January to May. They are the tastiest during the spring from February through early June.
When you are ready to harvest seaweed, make sure that you are harvesting the edible ones. Make sure that you are not harvesting from a polluted source. Avoid beaches that are near sewage pipes, near a town, or run-off and industry. Check with the Clean Beach websites bathing water quality to find the best places to harvest seaweed. Some seaweed has the texture of hair or taste like fish food. Many though do have exquisite tastes and there are a variety of flavors. Do not pick any dead seaweed from the splash zone. Check the tides and when the tide is out, harvest them so you are harvesting from living plants.
How to Harvest Seaweed
When you are ready to harvest seaweed you want to make sure that you do not yank the stipe off of the rocks but cut it. If you pull it, it will kill the seaweed and prevent re-growth the next year. You will also end up having flakes of rock and sand in your harvest. You need to cut the blades off above the stipe. Leave a little of the blade so it will re-grow again. Always make sure that you spread your harvesting around. Take a little here and a little there.
- Safety First: Never be blasé about the tidal zone and tide. You should always look up the tide online. Go out when the tide turns so you can allow yourself enough time to get back to shore before the tide starts to come back in. You should never go out alone because if you slip on a wet, seaweed rock you could fall. You could bang your head, knocking yourself out. Tell someone where you are going and let them know when you get home if you have to go alone. Doing these things can make a difference between life and death. Also, make sure that your phone is charged and you have a signal.
- Equipment Needed: You will need to make sure that you have a knife or pair of scissors to cut the seaweed. You will also need a bag or bucket to collect the seaweed. A wire basket is ideal so the water can just run out not making it as heavy to carry.
- Washing: When washing your seaweed, do not put it in a bucket of freshwater and let it stay in there overnight. The next morning you will have a slimy mess and inedible seaweed. All your hard work will be for nothing. Also do not dry it in freshwater because it will make it saltier. What you need to do is rinse it in a tub of water, which can be freshwater as long as it is not left in there to dry. Once you have rinsed, hang it straight up to dry. You can use a clothes rack over the bath if you want.
- Drying: When you are drying your seaweed, there are no rules. If you have a small species you can put in the oven on low or in a dehydrator. The larger seaweed you can peg it out on the clothesline, over a clothes rack, or hanging from the stairwell. If you are camping and harvesting seaweed, you can string a line between two trees to dry it. Before you store it away you need to make sure that it is properly dried.
- Processing: When it has dried, you can cut it into inch-long pieces and store them in sealed containers. Some of it you can put in a food processor and chop it into flakes as small as you can. Make sure that all your seaweed is stored in airtight containers and stored away from the light.
How to Eat Your Freshly Harvested Seaweed
Seaweed can be eaten with just about anything but there are some things that seafood will go with better than others. When it is in flake form it adds salt and minerals and umami. It can enhance the taste of foods like meat, beans, and fish without having a seaweed taste. Just use small amounts of it.
- Cut in small pieces and add to soups, bean dishes, and stews
- Add it to mixed kraut
- Brew up some seaweed beer
- Bake a seaweed sourdough bread
- Make a seaweed pickle with fresh kelp
- Some will wear a life jacket and carry flares but a life jacket for some may just get in the way of harvesting seaweed.
- You should keep a first aid kit in your car and some basics like Band-Aids and antiseptic wipes in your pocket.
- Some carry a loud whistle if they get in trouble and need help.
- When drying seaweed, doing it in the sun is better because it makes the seaweed taste better. In two to three days outside in sunny conditions, the seaweed should be dry and crispy. It should go from brown to dark green.
- Get a seaweed guide so you can learn about the seaweed in your area and know what to look for.
- All seaweed is edible if harvested in the right waters but some taste better than others.
Interested in reading more about Seaweed? Read: How to Avoid Seaweed when Fishing