In the previous article I shared my experiences foraging sea vegetables on Washington State’s San Juan Islands; today I wanted to examine some interesting uses that seaweeds can be put to back home in the kitchen and the organic garden.
I won’t list the many health claims associated with the use of sea vegetables, other than to say that they are very nutritious and rich in vitamins, trace minerals, and even proteins. In addition to the nutritional perks, seaweeds are known to offer medicinal benefits that are well worth investigating.
Will the Real Super Greens Please Stand Up
I’ve always touted leafy greens such as kale and collards as the ultimate nutrient dense health food, but sea vegetables just may have them beat thanks to all the healing elements that they can absorb from the oceans and pass on to our bodies and gardens.
Seaweeds are great for cooking with, and to use as a garden fertilizer and plant growth enhancer. In the past I’ve viewed seaweeds in the kitchen as more of a seasoning and spice than anything else. Strips of kombu were used to season legumes, dulse flakes served as a salt substitute, and nori was used to hold together tasty rice balls.
Building a Meal Around Sea Vegetables
During the Earthwalk Northwest Seaweed and Coastal Foraging Class I discovered that seaweeds can actually make a meal and be more of a focus than an accent. And a very delicious focus they are! Some of the seaweed recipes that we enjoyed and learned to create included:
• Nereocystis and Laminaria Seaweed Salad
• Tortillas with Alaria Lentil Spread
• Sea Vegetable Soup
• Kelp Cookies and Energy Bars
• Bladderwrack and Alaria Stir Fry
• Bullwhip Kelp Dill Pickles
• Black Cod and Sea Vegetable Casserole
• Nori Wrapped Sushi Rolls
• Baked Oatmeal with Dried Kelp Fronds
• Scrambled Eggs with San Juan Seaweed Spuds
All of the dishes were delicious and nutritious but my favorites were the mock Navarro oysters and the simple but tasty marinated seaweed salad. Seaweeds can become an important supplement to the daily diet. Unfortunately you can’t grow sea vegetables in the home garden, but they still play an important role out there as well!
Using Seaweeds in the Backyard Veggie Garden
Seaweeds make a terrific organic fertilizer in the home vegetable garden. The valuable nutrients and trace minerals found in seawater are absorbed and concentrated in the seaweeds and can then be delivered to the plants growing in our backyards.
Various organic seaweed based fertilizers are available for use by home gardeners. Some are packaged in a granular form the can be spread onto the ground and mixed into the top layers of the garden’s soil. I prefer to use the liquid seaweed fertilizers that are mixed with water and sprayed onto the plant’s leaves as a foliar fertilizer that is immediately put to use by the plants.
In addition to providing nutrients and trace elements, seaweeds are also reputed to provide specific growth enhancing properties to plants. For example watering vegetable tranplants with a dilute solution of liquefied seaweed fertilizer can help the plants recover quickly and reduce transplant shock. The application of seaweed fertilizers is also credited with improving frost tolerance and enabling plants to handle colder temperatures.
Making Your Own Organic Seaweed Fertilizers
I’m experimenting with making my own seaweed fertilizer out of some of the scrap seaweeds that I brought back from Washington State. I just steeped the seaweed in a couple gallons of clean water and let it sit for a few days to break down and ferment. Afterward I’ll strain the concoction and use it as a homemade organic spray.
If you have access to a supply of seaweeds, another option is to use them as part of the organic matter that goes into building your compost piles. You may want to give a quick rinse to clean them and reduce the amount of salt before adding to the compost. Seaweeds can also serve as a good mulch for the garden beds.
This is just a brief outline of the uses that seaweed can be put to in the kitchen or the garden. I encourage you to explore these incredible plants and the benefits that they supply as food and nutrition, medicinally, or as an aid to help cultivate a more productive garden.
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