Mar 14, 2013: Seaweed Farming

Posted by Adam James on December 05, 2014 0 Comments

... accidentally! We've had a few daylight low tides so far this year, and once the sunlight hits the flats the algae starts growing like crazy on our clam nets. Seaweed is algae. And, just in case you might need it, here's an idiot's guide to algae: there's microalgae, which is the kind that oysters eat, and macroalgae, which is the kind that we eat, like kelp, nori, etc. All seaweeds are edible in the sense that they're not toxic, but some are more delicious and digestible than others. Check out this guide to edible seaweed of the Pacific Northwest. Hold off hogging out on seaweed, however, if you're sensitive to iodine. Here we have some fucus, aka bladderwrack or popweed:

ficusandclams

Fucus has been used as fertilizer and livestock fodder for aeons (or "centuries and millenniums," to quote one of our own) and occasionally we'll head to the shore and scoop up a load to eat at home, normally adding it to stirfrys or pilafs. We've even successfully fed it to a vegetable-averse graybeard who, upon seeing something green in his rice dish, nervously wondered if it was spinach. He seemed actually relieved to find out it was seaweed. On a neighboring clam net, you'll find our sea lettuce plantation:

greenalgae green

Once the sun comes out for real, all this algae will cook off the nets. And before anybody gets too excited: know that we're not actually farming seaweed (although someday we would like to!), this stuff just grows on our gear. Nor are we harvesting it commercially... because that would be illegal. In Washington State you can harvest seaweed to eat at home (read the rules here) but you can't harvest it to sell. Obviously, it's a very important part of the food chain, and even macroalgae will break down into little bits, becoming micro, and therefore shellfish food. Studies have shown that blue mussels on the coast eat lots and lots of tiny kelp particles. Yesterday was a rough day... and when you work on an oyster farm, that expression is literal: the wind made things rough. It was the kind of day that turns macroalgae into microalgae. Here's a photo of the waves beating up some blue pools in the tumble farm on the incoming tide:

waves

The office:

clamscene

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