U-Pick Seaweed: A Brief Guide

Fresh seaweed can be dried, roasted, made into flakes, or eaten raw. It can also be added to salads or to soups like miso and ramen. And, if you like your seaweed fresh, Oregon allows individuals to harvest 2,000 lbs. of wet seaweed from submerged lands per year without a license. That’s a lot.

Finds along the coast could include thicker seaweeds like giant and bull kelps, and alaria. It’s possible you’ve stepped on or around some of these seaweeds while walking along the beach.  Then there are thinner seaweeds like purple laver and sea lettuce, which could be hanging onto rocks at low tide or lying flat on the shore.

Oregon does have some seaweed restrictions. Harvesting is forbidden in Intertidal Research Zones and Marine Gardens. The period for harvesting living seaweed only runs from March 1 to June 15, but you can harvest non-living seaweed any time of the year. You want to avoid potentially contaminated areas, as seaweeds readily soak up whatever is in the water. Get in touch with Oregon Fish and Wildlife for more information.

Once you have your seaweed, you’ll want to wash it as best you can. There will probably be some sand in it, which isn’t pleasant to chew. Washing does take off some of the salt, but it also allows some of the sweeter flavors to emerge. After washing, you can dry or roast your seaweed.

Drying seaweed is simple. For thinner types like sea lettuce, laying it out on something flat like a cookie sheet and then placing it in the sun, or in a relatively warm room, should do. Thicker types, like kelp, can be draped over a clothesline or fence. Your harvest will seem to get smaller, but don’t worry, as soon as you throw the dried seaweed in some soup it will return to its fully hydrated size.  

Roasting is slightly more involved, so you should call on the Internet for some tips. Start with dried seaweed and add oil, salt, and any other spices. Then, roast it in a skillet or even pop it in your oven, but be careful.

Your compact harvest can be stored in a jar or plastic bag until it’s ready to be added to your favorite dishes. It will be waiting whenever you need a healthy dose of iodine.

By Andy Hahn