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She Sells Seaweed

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Kacie harvests wild seaweed by hand!

Like the majority of Americans, seaweed is not a major component of my diet. Before interviewing Kacie Loparto, a hand-harvester of wild seaweed, the salty, slippery vegetable was, to me, something that occasionally wrapped around my legs while swimming in the ocean and held the contents of my sushi roll in one piece. Though seaweed may be new to me in regards to food, it has been utilized as food source for a very long time, and traditional methods of harvesting it have been passed down through generations. In 2007, after completing her degree at Warren Wilson College in North Carolina, Kacie decided to continue her hands-on education in agriculture and found somebody to apprentice with in Maine to learn seaweed harvesting. Harvesting of seaweed, like any wild food, is a craft that must be learned. So, she traveled to Maine to learn from some of the best, from somebody who had been out on the ocean for almost 40 years.

As the consumption and growing of seaweed is quickly increasing in popularity, sustainable methods of harvesting this wild source of nutrition are becoming more and more crucial. There are many things about seaweed harvesting that may only be learned by apprenticing with somebody who has sufficient knowledge about the practice. There are things like California Frond Tip harvesting–not taking a whole plant from the stem, but just a portion of it in order to ensure that it can replenish itself. And, how to monitor seaweed patches to determine if they are healthy enough to harvest from in consecutive years. Kacie has traveled from the East Coast to the West Coast learning different methods and seeing what it really takes to run a seaweed business. Whether in California or Maine, the best months to gather seaweed are June and July, and she always uses boats to get out to the seaweed, either row boats or kayaks. Her day usually starts around 3am, at which time the tide is the lowest and she has approximately two hours of prime time harvesting. If the tide is low enough, she may even be able to reach the seaweed by foot. After the seaweed is gathered and brought back to shore, it is hung out on lines to dry before it is ready to be eaten,

Kacie hangs seaweed out to dry after harvesting!

So, you ask, why seaweed?  Seaweeds are extremely high in iodine and magnesium and thus, good for protecting the thyroid and protecting us from different kinds of cancer that are caused by environmental pollutants. Kacie also told me that seaweed is a good alternative for people who don’t live by the ocean thus are not able to absorb the proper amounts of iodine through breathing the ocean air. Studies have suggested that, if used as a healing food, it can slow the growth of cancer cells.

Six years after Kacie began her apprenticeship, you can find her selling her seaweed at different farmer’s markets and blogging about her adventures on her website, She Sells Seaweed  www.shesellsseaweed.com  She educates people about different ways to eat seaweed, and is attempting to figure out how seaweed gathering is going to fit into her life. In the future she hopes to get into something like botany, lead plant walks, learn/teach how to use plants medicinally as well as food, and most of all, to educate people about wild foods. When asked why seaweed is so important to her, Kacie said that above all, she appreciates seaweed as a food source and likes harvesting for the adventure of the work. The interview ended with Kacie admitting, “I just love to eat seaweed.”

A 1 oz bag of Sea Palm

While Kacie uses seaweed in practically everything she cooks, her favorite recipe, also one of the best ways to soak up the most nutritional value from the seaweed, is miso soup! This recipe can be found on her website along with many others:

“To make the vegetarian dashi broth, boil 3 cups of water with slices of fresh ginger root. After about five minutes add a few strips of kombu, turn off heat and cover. Covering pot helps retain iodine and infuses broth with the healing alginates. Steep for 10 minutes, and then pour through strainer if you want only the broth.

To make the broth into miso soup, add a teaspoon of miso paste, sliced scallion, and grated carrots and daikon radish. You can also add umeboshi plum paste and coconut oil to enrich the soup even more.”

Written by Yvette Cabrera

August 10, 2012 at 8:17 pm