Words on Wellness • Seaweed
Stand on the Mendocino headlands in the ocean’s morning calm, and you will see a flotilla of kelp vessels rocking gently with the currents. Their holdfasts cling to deep rocks as they grow ever upwards in ocean’s garden. Like all garden plants, seaweed is categorized as annual or perennial. The life cycle of annual seaweed like bull kelp, begins in spring. Winter swells break up mature plants, scattering spores. After going through a complex reproductive cycle, bull kelp filaments settle and attach themselves to the ocean floor 100 feet from the surface. In the summer, we might mistake their bobbing air-bladders as sea lion heads. When they break off and reach shore, they become jump ropes and dog tugs or you can dry them for rattles, baskets and other pieces of art. If you catch a fresh frond, you can take it home to slice the stem and make a delicious pickle.
Seaweed has been harvested for food and medicine for thousands of years. It is nutritionally rich - by weight it contains more calcium and iron than dairy products and is packed with potassium, magnesium, iron, sodium and iodine. Relief from asthma, thyroid disorders, irritable bowel, high cholesterol and radiation exposure are just a few benefits attributed to seaweed. Plus, snacking on sea veggies in summer or soaking some in water and adding the ‘tea’ to your water bottle, will give you the electrolytes needed in hot weather. In addition, these ocean algae are also rich in omega 3 and 7 fatty acids.
The choicest edible seaweed is harvested by license in Northern California. Perennial seaweeds like Nori begin to regrow from established high intertidal rock surfaces where winter swells have torn their fronds. Rocks that were bare in the winter are suddenly covered in spring. Nori blooms from March through July and is exceptionally high in protein. Seen on outer rocks in in the roughest surf are miniature palm forests of sea palm. They bend and sway like redwood trees in high winds and are only found from Central California to Hope Island, British Columbia. Sea palm is a protected delicacy to eat in soups, salads, as pasta and in pastry. On a very low tide, you can pick some bright green sea lettuce to taste fresh from nature’s garden