How To Prepare Your Own Seaweed
Why not go and get yourself some treasure under the sea and we are not talking about gold doubloons, we’re talking about seaweed. Yes, seaweed – you know the clumps of stuff that you kick off wrapping around your legs when swimming in the sea. Seaweed is a sea vegetable treasure that is nutrient rich in vitamins, minerals, omega-3 fatty acids and amino acids. It is full of antioxidants as it gets battered in the sea in its daily life and due to changes in temperature.
There is no time like the present, and spring, early summer & autumn is the best time for seaweed harvesting, when it is nutrient dense. Seaweed growth slows down in high summer due to higher water temperatures.
You don’t have to go to a tropical island to find good seaweed, you can collect it here at home, on the Irish coast. Keep clear of polluted waters close to cities, go to nice clean beaches. Also avoid fresh water seaweed as it could be poisonous, stick to marine waters for your seaweed foraging. Seaweed harvesting is easy, free and so full of goodness for you and your dog, it’s certainly worth a trip to the beach.
What you need
- Pair of scissors or sharp knife
- Wire basket, bucket or plastic bags
- Tide Chart
- Pair of boots (optional, if you want to keep dry)
- Life jacket
- First aid kit
Remember, safety first! Check weather and tidal conditions before setting out. You will want to harvest the freshly exposed living seaweed in low tide, not the dead dried up, insect ridden seaweed on the beach. If you are going alone always tell someone where you are going.
Types of seaweed
You can forage for any type of seaweed on the beach as it is not harmful, but some will taste better than others.
There are 3 species of seaweed; Red, Green and Brown.
Some well-known, good tasting types are:
Kelps (e.g. Laminaria)
Kelp is one of the largest seaweed / algae. Kelp Laminaria is a brown long leafy
frond with a stipe that attaches to rocks. It has small air bubbles in it to make it float. It can be really big, multi-fronded and brown or small and more greenish single leaves.
Wracks (e.g. Bladder wrack)
Bladder wrack is a brown type seaweed but it can vary in colour from olive-green to brown. It has bladders along the fronds which help the plant stand straight up in the water. Bladder wrack can attach itself to mussels, stones or other objects.
Sea Lettuce (Ulva lactuca)
Sea lettuce, looks just like land lettuce, that floats in the sea. It is a thin flat green seaweed only 2 cell layers thick. It doesn’t have a stipe, rather a disc shaped holdfast that attaches to rocks. Young plants are pale green, bright green when mature and older plants are dark green.
Seaweed grows from the sea floor or attached to rocks. Unlike land vegetables, seaweed doesn’t have a root. Instead it has a stipe/holdfast that attaches to the rocks. Ensure you sustainably harvest your seaweed. Don’t pull the seaweed from the stipe attached to the rock, instead cut from the top leaving enough to regrow again. Also, don’t just whip it all up, take bits here and there, only taking what you need and leaving enough to reproduce.
Be mindful of the tide, assuming that you have checked a tide chart giving you plenty of time before the tide comes in again. Step carefully, taking care waves don’t hit you off rocks and be mindful of sea life living in tide pools.
A plastic bag or bucket is sufficient to hold your seaweed while harvesting but a wire basket would be preferable as it will also drain the water, reducing the weight you have to carry.
You can wash seaweed in the sea water but it will give it a more salty taste. Instead you can wash it in fresh water when you get home. Make sure to check the seaweed for debris and hooks, etc.
Don’t leave it soaking in fresh water overnight or you will end up with slimy gunk. You just need to rinse it, 2 or 3 times in fresh water and hang it up to air dry. Large pieces can be hung outside on a clothes line, or inside on a clothes rack. If you have smaller pieces you can dry them in a low heat oven (careful not to burn it) or on a towel on your counter top, turning every hour or so to speed up drying.
It will take several hours for your seaweed to fully dry, so if it’s outside drying make sure to take it inside if it rains! Once the seaweed is dry, it is ready to eat or store in a class jar to add to your cooked recipes and sprinkle on your dog’s food.
Seaweed is great for enhancing the flavour and nutrition in cooked dishes, as a salt substitute and soup and sauce thickener. It’s packed with more nutrients than land vegetables and despite its salty taste, it is actually low in salt content. Seaweed is good for both you and your dog.
Seaweed has been harvested in Ireland for centuries so go on, give it a go. Your body will thank you for it and so will your healthy dog. Read our article, Kelp Can Help, to learn about all the benefits of seaweed for dogs.