It’s not unusual to find tangled seaweeds and seagrasses on Nova Scotia’s beaches. Irish moss, sugar kelp, rockweed and eelgrass are all common finds. Loosened from their strongholds, they are often washed onto the beaches by the waves at high tide, appearing either individually or with others in the strandline.
On this small stone beach in Cow Bay, there is often a narrow strip of seaweed. However, what I found this week was far from ordinary. A massive heap of seaweed consisting mostly of the brown variety lay in a distinct mound on the shore. The heap appeared a few feet high in some spots. Thrown onto the beach during our recent stormy weather, this is the thickest stack of seaweed I’ve ever seen over my years of visiting our local beaches.
Though seaweed is growing in popularity as a health food in the western world, and has traditionally been used by gardeners for fertilizing the soil, this mound will likely be on the beach for some time. As it’s so thick, the seaweed probably won’t have a chance to dry out during low tide. Despite the cold weather, kelp flies were swarming around the already rotting mass when I took these photos on Wednesday.
Seaweed scattered along Conrad Beach near Lawrencetown in November
Last month, Em of Diabetes Dialogue, offered some excellent information pertaining to the health benefits of seaweed:
“As I understand it, all seaweeds are edible, but they must be gathered from pollution free waters. http://www.ryandrum.com will give you good information and Dr. Ryan Drum, PhD is a professional person who is well acquainted with both coasts.
The Maine Sea Vegetables link on my post will also be helpful for you, as what grows in the Bay of Fundy likely grows on Nova Scotia’s eastern shore, at least to some degree.
Ryan says that not all seaweeds taste good, in the sense that some are very strong textures. The ones eaten by Native Americans, Europeans and Asians tend to be versions of the same species. Interesting, eh?
But, as I understand it, barring any natural or man-made pollution, you should be safe in collecting fresh seaweed — now, navigating the coastal rocks is another matter!
Ryan explains how to “harvest” and not kill the plant, which is critical as, evidently from about the 1980s onward, commercial businesses have been using Norwegian mechanical harvesters, all over the world, to indiscriminately “rape” the ocean. Whole species have “disappeared” and are at or near extinction just in order to show up as “organic” and “regular” fertilizer or be used in Caribbean natural-Viagra drinks (these species were over-harvested by hand). How incredibly maddening!
Dr. Drum says we need to demand laws to stop all this over-harvesting and to encourage marine farming of seaweed, as is done in parts of Japan, on strings or on matted net.
Why can’t business use the less-invasive technology, first?! I hate to think how much damage these companies have wrought, unabated. So Drum says that Maine is threatening a 5 year moratorium on all seaweed harvesting, which would be devastating to the responsible hand harvesters, who in a year probably don’t take as much as a mechanized harvester does in a day or so.
Anyway, as your estuary and possibly coastal area, seems quiet, maybe you can learn more and safely harvest your own.
As far as health is concerned, the more I read, the more I see that this primal plant, which has supported all Life, from it’s inception, is truly the most nourishing plant we could use everyday.”
For more information on using seaweed for fertilizing gardens, see Anne’s post on Winter Gardening at Nova Scotia Island Journal.
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