Foraging & Eating Seaweed ~ Australian Golden Kelp

Dylan Smith foraging seaweed

Australian Algae Abundance

For us Australians, right on our doorstep floats an incredibly nutritious and regenerative aquatic plant that we can easily start foraging: Seaweed.

The good news is, nearly all of the vast diverse algae available from the salty waters of Australia are not only edible but also delicious and highly nutritious.

As it rolls up in waves and hits us while we swim, or takes up residence on our sandy beaches, we treat it like a nuisance. We get scared or repulsed by it. Local councils bulldoze the plant away. By foraging seaweed from your local beach you are effectively diverting organic matter from the tip that either-wise councils would be dumping.

We need to flow a little more love and value to these non-flowering algae that lacks true roots, leaves and vascular tissue.

Seaweeds are a very sustainable source of food - they don't need any dirt nor freshwater to grow. By foraging and introducing seaweeds in your diet, you are contributing towards more sustainable ways to consume food.

This post hopefully inspires you to get more close, personal and tangible with your local seaweeds as you learn foraging, preparation and culinary methods.

Foraging Guidelines & Etiquette

As with any type of foraging, their are rules and etiquette to be mindful of:

  1. Know the area you are foraging from -  It is important that you forage seaweed from somewhere that’s relatively clean and non-toxic. Does the council or anyone spray pesticides/poison there? Do animals typically eliminate their waste products there? For seaweeds, this means avoiding ocean sewage/pollution outlets and oceans that aren't copping a lot of industrial pollutants.
  2. Harvest sustainability - On the land, leave some to continue to grow and spread. Leave some for other humans and also the multiple creatures that use these organic substances as a home and food.
  3. Use a sharp knife - For plants, including some seaweeds, that attach strongly to their base. This ensures you don't damage the holdfast so they can re-grow.
  4. Check the Regulations - Where ever you go, they differ. Check out the legalities and ethics in Australia.

Identification

Golden kelp (Ecklonia radiata) is a large brown to golden-brown seaweed up to 1.5 meters long.

The stem (stipe) is rounded and at the base has a holdfast that looks like the rooting part of a tree. This is not technically a root, but and anchoring device for the seaweed to hold steady underwater. You will get to know it very quickly after picking it up on the beach.

Harvesting

Golden kelp can be found all around Australia (see map below).

You will find it in big piles after big seas, mixed up with debris and other seaweeds on the beach.

Timing of Harvest

Just after high tide or after a storm where the sea leaves behind the fresh kelp.
Harvesting is in spring and autumn is more abundant because that's when they grow the most, but you can effectively find golden kelp all year round.

Please note it is best to collect seaweeds when they have naturally dislodged from their place on the seafloor. This is to ensure the least amount of disturbance to the marine ecology. This marine ecology also has significance when the kelp is in big biles on the beach, so even in this case, it should be collected in small amounts and from different places on the sand/rocks.

Do not to forage seaweed from the sea, but rather wait until it floats free.

Drying

Rinse all the sand off in a bucket or sink of cold water.

You can then leave it to dry in the sun on the floor, but ideally suspended on a drying rack or clothes line.

Sun Drying

According to Ole G. Mouritsen in his book Seaweeds: edible, available + sustainable – the UV light helps the polyphenols break down into simple tannins, which makes them taste better and further promote the digestive properties of kelp.

In 2-3 days, our seaweed was crispy dry, and turned from golden-brown to dark green.

Chop

There are a few ways to chop the kelp that I know of:

  1. Dry and then chop - this is much harder on the finger muscles and you'll need strong scissors.
  2. Chop while wet, then dehydrate. This is really only possibly if you have a mesh-like drying rack so they don't fall through, or a dehydrator. Note, you may need to use a dehydrator if the weather is very cold and moist.
  3. Marinate - This is a different way other than drying.
    1. Blanch into a large pot of boiling water for 10-30 seconds, it will turn bright green.
    2. Separate the stem from the fronds (like leaves).
    3. Cut stem into long thin strips like noodles, the stem is firmer than the fronds and should be cooked more.
    4. Cut the fronds into small squares, these parts are softer and go well on soups or stir-fries.

Preserve in a Jar Ready for Use

After chopping up a bit, add into a strong blender and blend into small granules.
It can be kept also in bigger pieces, but I like them as close to powder so I can easily add it into any dish.

Keep in a jar, ready for use.

I add these into any cooking pot (I add towards to end to only cook for a short while). I recommend cooking for a little bit, even just blanching will soften it.

Ayurvedic View on Kelp

Ayurvedic Properties of Golden Kelp

Rasa (Taste): Lavana (Salty) and Tikta (Bitter) (sometimes)

Virya (Potency): Usna (heating)

Doshas: V- PK+

  1. Vata: Seaweeds can be drying (ruksa guna), so better hydrate it (soak in water) or add to cooking with some water to pacify Vata. 
  2. Pitta: The usna virya (heating potency) of salt aggravates Pitta.
  3. Kapha: The liquid quality (dravam guna) that is immediately produced by lavana rasa and the slimy (picheela guna) in seaweed (which helps thicken up a soup) can increase kapha

Grounds the Nervous System

Sinking and heavy = grounding for nervous system. “Salt of the earth.”

The quality of moistness pacifies the vata and nourishes the nervous system.

More Medicinal Qualties

  • Deepana - Enkindles and strengthens the Agni (digestive fire)
  • Pachana - Digests the Ama
  • Chedana - expulsion of the doshas
  • Bhedana (breaking)
  • Vikasi Sroto Sodhaka - (suksma) - Antispasmodic. Loosens the joints. These herbs destroy the tone of the joints by loosening the ligaments. - Can be medicinal or damaging, thus must be used the right way.
  • Sareera mardavakaraSoftening in the body, due to jala mahabhuta.
  • Samshodana - purificatory
  • Dhatu Saithilyakaracause looseness of the dhatu.

~ Karmas of Lavana Rasa that apply to Golden Kelp

  • It strengthens the immune system.
  • Stimulates kidney function.
  • It's tikta rasa can help reduce inflammation.

Seaweed has been shown to protect the body against radiation and environmental pollutants 

Very High in Minerals

Kelp contain minerals, trace elements, vitamins, and amino acids.

Basically no other group of plants contains more minerals and nutrients than seaweed. 

Kelp contains about 30 minerals. Kelp is packed with iodine, calcium, sulfur, silicon, phosphorus, iron, sodium, barium, boron, chromium, lithium, potassium, aluminum, strontium, bismuth, magnesium, copper, chloride, zinc, manganese, nickel, silver, vanadium, chlorine, cobalt, gallium, tin and zirconium. It contains vitamin C, E, D, K and B complex. Thus, it is a wise food for people who have mineral deficiencies.

Iodine found in kelp has been shown to boost metabolism and support the thyroid in cases of hypothyroidism.

The high amounts of calcium and magnesium found in seaweed promotes bone health and the magnesium helps the body to absorb calcium.

High in Chlorophyll

Chlorophyll is a pigment that absorbs sunlight (photosynthesis), transforms it along with minerals, water and carbon dioxide to produce food for the plant itself to grow. It also is what gives plants their green colour.

  • Helps increase the production of red blood cells.
  • According to a study, chlorophyll contains antioxidant and anti-mutagenic properties that may benefit your health by fighting free radicals throughout your body.
  • Lower your risk of cancer — Helps in inducing apoptosis, according to a research published in Nutrition Research.
  • Manage arthritis — Evidence has shown anti-inflammatory properties to help with chronic inflammation.
  • Fight free radicals — According to the Journal of Food Science, dietary chlorophyll contains antioxidant and antimutagenic properties that may benefit your health by fighting free radicals throughout your body.12
  • Kill pathogenic yeast — Oral thrush, caused by the yeast strain Candida albicans, may be treated by consuming chlorophyll, according to a study.
  • Manage your weight — Studies indicated that the procedure was able to help suppress test subjects' hunger by intensifying signals of satiety.
  • Reduce body odor — It may help eliminate bad fishy odour by reducing the amount of thrimethylamines excreted by your body, a study showed. It even helped ease chronic constipation as a positive side effect.

Horticultural Uses

Seaweeds are excellent fertilisers- you can add straight into the compost or bury into the ground to distribute plenty of minerals to your soil.

Further Information and Resources

Foraging legend in Sydney Diego Bonetto talks about Golden Kelp

Milkwood did a great article about Seaweed in Australia

There are little enterprises like Sea Health Products, who have been foraging seaweed & golden kelp in the waves at Narooma for decades, have a commercial drying facility in a valley and have based an entire business around this "weed." So when you find it fresh, take some of that goodness home with you.

References

The recommended resources for further learning above.

Do you have a seaweed you forage or a recipe? Comment below 👇

Related Reading: Foraging and Curing Olives

The information in this article is intended for your educational use only; does not necessarily reflect the opinions of Vital Veda; and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and before undertaking any diet, supplement, fitness, or other health program. 

Travel Healthy! Reduce Aeroplane Stress

Aeroplane travel will surreptitiously “suck the life out of you.” It sucks all the moisture out of your body.
With the humidity level in the cabins of most commercial aeroplanes at just 10-20%, and some even as low as 1%!(1), this makes aeroplanes drier than the Sahara Desert! which sits at about 25% humidity.

Take a good look at yourself in the mirror after travelling, especially if you travel a lot. If you are slightly in tune with your body, you will probably realise how much aeroplane travel accelerates your ageing process.

You may be surprised to learn the many risks associated with air travel.

For example, one study shows how bacteria can stay alive and continue to be infectious for more than a week on the armrests, seat pockets, seats and bathroom doors of commercial aircrafts. The dry air is said to contribute to their extra-long life on aeroplanes. (2)

That’s not to mention the health risks associated with jet lag, dehydration, swelling and fatigue.

Altitude Shock = Dehydration & Dryness

Ever wonder why it is so easy to fall asleep in a plane? It is likely because the oxygen has been literally sucked out of your brain as the cabin is being pressurised.

When people flock to mountain towns to hike, ski or for leisure, it is very common for them to get altitude sickness. Even fit athletes who train at altitude can tell the difference when they climb to 3,000 meters. In a plane, this altitude change happens in just a couple of minutes!

Dehydration and body dryness is the most instant result of altitude shock.

If you are flying a lot and your body is repeatedly put through such drastic altitude changes, the effects become chronic. Chronic sub-clinical dehydration will first dry out the outer skin and then dry out the skin associated lymph beneath the skin. When this dries out, lymphatic flow is hampered, compromising its function of draining toxins and circulating white blood cells around the body for immunity.

The good news is, I’ve compiled some effective strategies to buffer these risks. Incorporating just a few simple tips to your air travel routine will help lessen the impact of flying and help you feel more vibrant during and after your trips.

Air Travel Survival Tools

Pre-Hydrate

For 1-2 days before you fly, make every effort to drink plenty of warm-hot water. Approximately 2-3L depending on your body weight. Fresh coconut water is also recommended if in season and local.

On the day of your flight, sip hot water every 10-15 minutes to help further hydrate and support the lymphatic system.

Lubricate

Perform Ayurvedic Self-Abhyanga (Massage) before and after trips or treat yourself to an Abhyanga if available, especially upon arrival.

This will not only counter the dryness but effectively move the lymph and circulate blood. Continue to topically apply oil as a moisturiser on the flight.
Pack a little Ghee as lip balm, or use the massage oil.

Shilajit

Used by Himalayan mountain climbers to gain energy for climbing at heights above 6,000 meters and to help oxygenate at high altitudes. The active ingredient of this ancient herb, Fulvic acid, has now been found by scientists to support oxygen and energy transport. Consider taking this herb around travel days.*

* It is best to take herbs in a therapeutic combination rather than by itself. If taking by itself, have 1 day break every 7 days. Consult an Ayurvedic practitioner for a proper formulation and prescription. 

Pitta body types take caution as Shiljait is very heating and may aggravate Pitta.

Recycled Air

The Journal of Environmental Health Research reported that air travel increases the risk of catching a cold by 100 times because of the recycled air.

While exposure is unavoidable, we can increase our immunity and decrease our susceptibility.

Air Travel Survival Tools

Nasya

My most prized aeroplane survival tool.

Nasya is an Ayurvedic technique which involves lubricating the nasal passages (responsible for immunity).

Oil to use:  Vital Veda/Raju Nasika herbalised oil formula is superior. Inferior but still effective is Anu Tailia or cold pressed sesame oil.

Method: Tilt the head back and drop 1-3 drops in each nostril every hour so. The aim is to sniff it through the entire nasal passages, and even further up to your brain.
Also pop a couple of drops in your ears to deal with cabin pressure.

Learn about Nasya more here

Immune Boosting Rasayana (Elixir)

Ananda Siddhi Yog
Highly nourishing to the body and boosts immunity, strengthens and repairs all the seven layers of the dhatus (tissues) and gives all the refined nourishment you need for rapid healing. Very good for chronic coughs (strengthens the lungs) and restores physical vitality.
This is superior to Chywanprash.
Take 1 tsp 1-2x/day. Contact Vital Veda to order.

Chywanprash
This trusted and popular Ayurvedic formula supports immunity. This is a classic remedy for supporting frequent travellers and mitigating your risk of catching a cold during a flight.
*Please buy a quality product from a trustworthy source such as Vital Veda or Maharishi Ayurveda.

Jet Lag

Imagine air-lifting a dolphin from the Tasman Sea off the coast of Sydney, Australia to the Indian Ocean by Singapore in just 8 hours. Then, after a quick layover, air-lift that same dolphin to the harbour in Hong Kong in 4 hours.

Would you expect that dolphin to ever re-establish normal migration patterns? If so, how long do you think it might take?

For humans too, this disruption of the body’s normal biological rhythms is very real.

Jet lag can cause fatigue and lead to cognitive decline, sleep issues, and even psychotic or mood disorders.

Air Travel Survival Tools

Daily Ayurvedic Massage

Since your skin has more nerve endings than any other organ, applying herbalised oil will pacify the nervous system. Every square centimetre of the body’s skin is innervated by sensory neurons. These neurones are much happier when fed with herbalised oil, rather than left dehydrated to become irritated and over-stimulated. Learn to do self-massage.

Abhyanga oil massage as a good alternative for hand soap

Watch the Sunrise & Sunset

Watch the sunrise and sunset to re-connect with the local circadian cycles. Natures rhythms will enter through the retina of your eyes to regulate hormones like melatonin.
Even if it means pulling yourself out of bed, it’s worth it, and beautiful.

Ashwagandha

Considered by many to be one of the most potent adaptogens, this herb supports the body’s ability to adapt to stress like that incurred by jet lag and prevent you from absorbing the crippling impact.

It is best to take herbs in a therapeutic combination rather then by it self. If taking by itself, have 1 day break every 7 days. Consult a quality Ayurvedic practitioner. I recommend the product Stresscom as a good source of ashwagandha.

Blood Clots

20 million travellers will develop blood clots, or deep vein thrombosis (DVT) a year.(3)
The risk factors seem to be a combination of sitting still for hours in a pressurised cabin, lymph congestion and dehydration.

Air Travel Survival Tools

Get Up and Move Regularly During Long Flights

  • Walk up and down the aisles more
  • Yoga Asanas - find a more spacious place to do stretches - I usually go near the bathroom, back or front of a section, near the staff stations, exit rows, rows with more leg room, empty business class areas, or my favourite, the muslim praying area.
  • Stretch your neck, rotate ankles, wrists, as much as you can while sitting.

Herbal Support

If DVT is an issue for you, it is important to consult a practitioner to tackle this problem. More complex herbs and treatment are required to dilate the channels.

Rest As Mentioned Above

Hearing Loss

Airline cabins range from 75 decibels in the front of the plane to 85 to 100 in the back. A loud nightclub, for example, roars at about 100 decibels. The Institute for Occupational Safety and Health limits safe noise levels to 88 decibels for four hours. This suggests that there is potential risk of permanent hearing damage during frequent flights that last longer than four hours.

Air Travel Survival Tools

Noise Reduction Headphones

If you are a frequent traveller, consider a set of noise reduction headphones, which reduce noise by about 40 decibels.

Nasya in the Ears

Pop a couple of Nasya oil drops in your ears before flying. Hold the head on each side for about a minute for the oil to sink down deep down into the eardrum.

Constipation

Very common due to jet lag, altitude shock and dehydration.

Swelling

Mainly caused by congested lymph.
Causative factors of lymph congestion are almost all of the idea discussed above, particularly:

  • Constipation dries out the lymph concentration on the gut wall.
  • Altitude shock affects cellular pressure, which is responsible for lymph movement.
  • Sitting still for hours may congest the lymph as their is no movement to pump the lymph and regulate the circulatory system.
  • Dehydration directly affects lymph flow.
  • Jet lag creates stress on the body, which is a major cause of lymph congestion.

Air Travel Survival Tools

Vital Veda / Raju Shodana Vati

Detoxification agent & whole-body cleansing purifier. 3-dosha blanching. Accordingly these herbal pills prepared by the Raju family will support regular bowel motions.

Triphala

Tripahla is a natural bowel toner that supports regular bowel movements. It can be used for short periods of time around travels without dependency. available at Vital Veda.

*Not necessary if you are taking “Shodana Vati.”

Sip Hot Water Frequently

Ensure you have a thermos with you to keep refilling. You’ll make best friends with the flight attendant and perhaps contribute to the revolution of drink hot water rather than cold.

Vata Tea

Since the Vata dosha gets mostly thrown out during travel, a Vata tea can assist in balancing. My favourite Vata tea is from Moksha Ayurveda.

Meditate More

Due to the harsh environment of an aeroplane, meditate as much as you like! It will buffer against jet lag, provide deep rest, and get you through the flight a lot more joyfully. Vedic Meditation is recommended.

Avoid Caffeine and Alcohol

These only dehydrate you further while in the flight.

Tongue Scraper and Herbal Toothpaste

Don’t forget these in your carry on luggage for long flights to scrape away the ama (toxins).

My on-board travel kit. Also includes a thermos and some Vata tea bags.

Don’t just Arrive Alive, Arrive and Thrive!

References
(1) Robert Haru Fisher, http://www.frommers.com/articles/4606.html
(2) http://wireeagle.auburn.edu/news/1656
(3) “The Lancet,” New Zeland, 2003.
Credits: Dr. John Doulliard, Lifespa.com