My Seaweed Harvesting Adventure!

Back in my mid-20’s, when I was beginning to explore natural healing modalities, I attended the Women’s Herbal Symposium in Mendocino County. It was a very memorable experience for many reasons (some of which are not appropriate to mention here!). I remember enjoying the introductory courses in essential oil use & flower essence preparation. I also did their morning Ashtanga yoga practice, which was new to me at the time too. But I left feeling a little unsatisfied because I was not able to get into the seaweed harvesting course they were doing on the coast.

I have longed to collect & study marine algae for decades since then, but never made it a priority. Recently, I discovered that a new friend harvests seaweed every Spring. I jumped at the chance to join her!

What’s the big deal about seaweed?

I LOVE that:

  • There are many beautiful species

  • It lives in the ocean (I love all marine life)

  • Most seaweed is delicious

  • Seaweed is nutritious, high in many antioxidants & micronutrients (especially iodine which is wonderful to support my thyroid) and is actually high in plant protein

  • It’s safe to eat as long as the water is not contaminated – seaweed does not absorb toxins (like heavy metals) as much as seafood higher on the food chain (like fish)

  • It’s legal to harvest

  • There’s plenty of it and at the moment, sustainability is not an issue

So now you know why my son and I got up at 5:30am to drive 2 hours up to the Sonoma Coast to be on the beach at an extreme low tide. (There are beaches closer to us that are appropriate for seaweed harvesting in Pescadero, CA, but our new friends talked us into making this a day full of adventure & new experiences!)

Our eyes took in the huge variety of seaweed exposed and my friend Ellen showed me the ones she preferred eating: nori, Turkish washcloth (that can really be used as a skin exfoliator!), sea lettuce, sea cabbage, bladderwrack, kombu, and iridescent varieties of kelp & marine algae.

Nori Seaweed

Turkish towel seaweed

I balanced on rocks, cutting off what I wanted, eating some while storing the majority in my bag, and making sure to leave the holdfasts (analogous to roots for seaweed).

It actually took me awhile to realize that the slippery pebbles on the rocks were actually baby anemones. They were everywhere!

Baby sea anemones

Adult sea anemone

Our kids explored the tide pools and made “soup” containing mussels & live crabs. They ate their fill of seaweed too.

Tide pool “soup”
After my bag was full (which was probably a mere 2 lbs. – you’re legally able to take 10 lbs. in California), we headed up to Bodega Bay for some lunch, live music, and a game of chess.

It was a full, fun, yet exhausting day. Ideally it’s best to let seaweed dry in the sun, but there was not much sun available when we arrived back home. I decided to use our dehydrator instead. Here’s 1 of the 6 trays that I filled:

Anyone want some seaweed? I’ve been feeling as healthy & happy as ever with this yummy snack on hand.

I am so grateful to Ellen for sharing her passion with me. My education has just begun, and I’m sure it will grow into a passion for me as well. Stay tuned for more harvesting adventures next Spring!

Have you harvested seaweed before? Is marine algae something you’re interested in? Do you have any questions about seaweed harvesting? Please let me know in the comments!

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Brandy Falcon L.Ac.

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