May 7, 2011

Ocean Veggies: Collecting Seaweed

Seaweed - over 700 edible varieties on BC's coast

In the place I live, next to the Pacific Ocean, seaweed is a common sight on local beaches. I didn't pay a lot of attention to it until the Japanese nuclear disaster began in March. At that time I discovered that common seaweeds can protect your thyroid from radiation damage. But that is not all.

Ocean veggies, like their land-based counterparts, are good for you. Very good for you. They are amazing plants with many unique properties, including the profusion of different varieties. Seaweed comes in many different beautiful colours, shapes, sizes, and structures. They all taste different, too.

Super Seaweed Facts
  • Bull kelp, which creates vast underwater 'old growth forests' is the fastest growing plant on earth
  • the seaweed you find on beaches is good for fertilizer, but not for eating - the piles of beached seaweed are past their best before date, and are only good for giving the garden a boost
  • in my immediate area there are over 200 species of seaweed, and all of them are edible
  • you do not need a license to harvest seaweed for personal use
  • seaweeds don't have root systems like terrestrial plants, and have fronds rather than leaves
  • seaweed is the healthiest plant on earth - it has huge amounts of vitamins A, E, C, and all the Bs including B12. It has all the trace minerals, zinc, iron, protein, complete fiber, and no fat
  • seaweed is rich in iodine, which gathers in the thyroid and leaves no place for radioactive Iodine-131 to bind to, preventing cancers (other parts of the body are still vulnerable to radiation, such as bone marrow)
  • seaweed is good for cleansing your body, as it absorbs toxins - it does the same in the ocean, so only collect from untainted, pristine areas (not around marinas, for example)
  • professional collectors never pull seaweed out from the end, called a holdfast (root-like structures that hold the seaweed to the ocean bottom) - the seaweed is cut from higher up so as to not destroy the plant.
The seashore has not been enclosed yet, and remains in the commons for us all to enjoy. I am excited about being able to go out and harvest this highly useful, highly nutritious plant. But as I am developing a desire to forage freely in our wild and prolific ocean garden, there is reason for caution.

Iodine-131 has recently been detected on the coast of BC, both in rainwater, and in seaweed. The radioactive compound that has traveled from Japan, has a half-life of 8 days. It can be expected to be arriving on our shores up to 4 weeks after the nuclear crisis ends, whenever that may be.

The Canadian government continues to report that there is nothing to worry about. But there is. The seaweed that I was going to collect to protect me against radioactive Iodine 131 now has that Iodine 131 in it, even if 'only' in small quantities.

I don't know about you, but I am worried about that. Disappointed, too. Seaweed is looking to me like a vast, untapped resource right on my doorstep. I want to benefit from it, but I think I will be holding off on harvesting my own seaweed for now.

I will be eating store-bought Nori until they get the Japanese nuclear reactors under control. After that, though, I will be wading into nature's ocean garden to learn more about super seaweed.

1 comment:

  1. Where is it safe to pick seaweed to eat in the vancouver lower mainland area? Is it safe at this time? Are all seaweed edible? Thanks.


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