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Collecting kelp

September 17, 2009

drying kelp LDSCN2572There’s food all around!

Well, I know that’s not true everywhere, but it sure is true out here on the west coast.

I went out for a little kayak paddle on a golden evening last week.  As I glided over the kelp beds, I could see that that some of the fronds at the tips of the Giant Kelp (Macrocystis spp.) were still lovely and clean.  Usually, around this time of the year, the “leaves” start to fall apart, and are overgrown with all sorts of stuff (I am not sure exactly what, but some sort of fuzzy marine growth that makes them pretty unsuitable for harvest).

I plucked a couple of fronds, and folded them up under the bungies on my deck.  It was late in the day when I got back home, so I just hung them in my carport for the night. I knew that they would never dry there – but putting them down anywhere tends to get them sandy, or dusty.

giant kelp LDSCN2575The next day was, as I had hoped, lovely and sunny.  I laid the strands out in the sun on my back deck, and they dried almost immediately.  The kelps transforming before my eyes, from the rich kelpy brown to deep green, as each piece dried – the colour working its way inward from the edges.

Within fifteen minutes, they were done.  I packaged them up in ziplock bags, and there is my kelp for the winter.  I can eat the pieces as they are, as a snack (they come out much like the square pieces of nori you buy to make sushi rolls), or crumble them up to use like a seasoning, on rice dishes or in stir-fries – or, my favourite, to crumble into tuna “poké”, that lovely Hawai’ian dish made of cubes of raw tuna stirred up with green onions, chopped chillis, seaweed, and a dash of sesame oil.

People here buy this stuff at the grocery store – packaged in plastic, and transported from who-knows-where…  yet it’s here, right on our doorstep, and free!

PS – I’ve tried in the past to use another kelp species, Bull Kelp (Nereocystis luetkeana).  This is a species that is harvested in order to extract “alginate”, which is used as a thickener in products like ice cream.  I once tried cutting up the fleshy bull kelp tubes, and using them in a veggie stirfry.  This was a good lesson in what not to do with kelp.  Stir-frying the bull kelp slices made all of the alginate come out and glue all of my veggies together; my stir-fry turned into a big mucus-ball.

Apparently, bull kelp makes great pickles.

One Comment leave one →
  1. September 26, 2009 6:38 am

    Yup, bull kelp makes fabulous pickles. Be nice to me (or, continue to be nice to me) and I will share my recipe. Not the best time of year to make them though — the stipes are a bit groady. The fresh growth early next summer will be perfect!

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