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Foraging for seaweed is food for the soul

[UK] Sea spaghetti, anyone? Or how about a bladderwrack bath? Gayle goes foraging for seaweed in the East Neuk with Jayson Byles.

Since meeting up with Jayson Byles on a beach in the East Neuk, I’ve bathed in bladderwrack and crafted myriad dinners from various species of foraged seaweeds.

Jayson, a professional seaweed harvester, is a man bursting with passion and enthusiasm. He’s a man who, at first sight, resembles Captain Jack Sparrow, with his flailing dreadlocks, sparkling eyes and ready smile.

Courier Features, Gayle Ritchie story CR0008002 . Gayle goes foraging for seaweed with Jayson Byles at Kingsbarns beach. Pic shows; Jayson Byles talking Gayle through the different types of seaweed at Kingsbarns. Thursday, 11th April, 2019. Kris Miller/DCT Media.

Like Jack Sparrow, Jayson is brave and dedicated to his mission – not of slaying pirates of the Caribbean, but of finding his very own treasures in the North Sea.

He moved to the East Neuk three years ago after being offered a management position for a commercial seaweed company. Unhappy with the amount of plastic the company was producing, and keen to pass on his skills of self-sufficiency, Jayson set up East Neuk Seaweed this year.

I’m lucky enough to have Jayson all to myself on a sunny, but extremely chilly, morning in April. We meet at Kingsbarns beach and after a quick briefing, we head down to the rocky shore.

“Most of the action happens in the inter-tidal zone, so the best time to harvest is during the lowest tides, known as ‘spring tides’,” he explains.

We’re on a mission to find an array of seaweeds and when we do find them, we need to harvest them sustainably. That means not ripping out the “holdfast”, the structure that attaches seaweed to rocks and allows it to grow again.

Jayson cutting some seaweed making sure to leave the holdfast intact. Kris Miller/DCT Media.

Our first find is bladderwrack, an iodine-rich form of kelp that’s been used medicinally for centuries.

“Put this in a bath and your skin will feel amazingly moisturised,” advises Jayson, plonking a huge handful of the slightly sinister looking stuff into a bag.

Having tasted and loved pepper dulse previously, I whoop with excitement when Jayson finds it in abundance and invites me to pluck some straight from the rocks.

“Try that in a stir fry later if you don’t eat it all raw first,” laughs Jayson.

Sea spaghetti. Kris Miller/DCT Media.

While elusive, we do indeed find sugar kelp, dulse and dabberlocks, but Jayson is determined to locate some sea spaghetti.

“I’ll need to dive into the sea to find some. I’ve got my wetsuit on and the sun’s out – I’ll be fine,” he smiles.

Minutes later, he emerges with three bags of the stuff which we sample, raw.

“This stuff is amazing,” he says. “My favourite way to eat seaweed is fresh off the rocks. I like simple, so fresh sea spaghetti quickly blanched with a nice dressing and eaten with salad is probably one of my favourite seaweed dishes. Another favourite is porphyra or nori/purple laver, as it’s available in late winter before most land plants have awoken.”

Jayson is a veritable font of knowledge on all things related to seaweed.
Kris Miller/DCT Media.

While some regard seaweed as ugly and hazardous to shore-strollers, look at it from another perspective and it’s actually rather beautiful – the ruby red fronds of dulse, the balloon bubbles of bladderwrack, the leathery belts of kelp and translucent green of sea lettuce.

Unconvinced by its associated benefits? Jayson is more than happy to extol its virtues.

“Seaweed is pretty balanced with carbs and protein and high in vitamins.

“It’s also high in magnesium, potassium and all the trace elements that are lacking in modern diets. Washed up seaweed is great for the garden as a mulch, a liquid feed or to boost the compost heap. The ‘alginates’ in seaweed are widely used by both the food and beauty industries,” he enthuses.

Foraging for seaweed is a fantastic when done in a sustainable way.

When it comes to cooking with seaweed, Jayson, who worked as a professional chef in his native New Zealand, as well as in Australia, Ireland and Scotland, is an expert.

“There are so many options with seaweed – it’s so versatile. If I don’t have seaweed with my eggs in the morning, then my day isn’t the same,” he says.

Jayson’s move from working for a commercial seaweed harvesting company to running his own small business, is, he says, much more sustainable, relatable and enjoyable for everyone involved. It’s also more much supportive for local communities and less impactful on our environment.

“We’re surrounded by this natural abundance, but the only seaweed available to buy is either cheap imported or high end ‘artisan’,” he says.

Jayson discovers some dulse.

“I want to pass on a variety of immersive experiences and skills in self-sufficiency, coupled with a respect and awe for nature.

“I take small groups of people on exciting journeys to discover nature’s abundance. On a trip, you’ll learn how to spot inter-tidal zones, how to identify edible seaweeds as they come into season, and how to stay safe in this potentially dangerous environment.

“Wild foods are nutrient dense and unparalleled in terms of health benefits, but we need to be respectful and think long term about the impact on the habitat.

“It’s a constant balance and I hope to really embed that philosophy of moderation into how we approach any wild food.”

Gayle and Jayson at Kingsbarns Beach. Check out the daffodils!

Back home in the evening, I can’t wait to start experimenting with my seaweed and first up is my bladderwrack bath.

Once I get used to the strange fronds tickling me (and the odd snail shell), I relax and enjoy the oily, moisturising feeling. Heck, who needs Radox!

Conscious of being eco-friendly, I use the drained bladderwrack as compost in the garden and I’m sure I can see the potentilla starting to perk up!

My dinners for the week are utterly sumptuous, something I never usually say about my cooking. I experiment with stir fries and spaghettis and…just wow!

Seaweed – I salute you!

Jayson is running a series of daytime and sunset edible foraging sessions via East Neuk Seaweed during summer. Tours are based in the East Neuk, but Jayson will travel to groups outside the region. Bespoke sessions can be arranged. Topics include identifying
edible seaweeds, staying safe, sustainability, wild and seasonal cooking, beach craft survival skills, and other uses for seaweed. For more information and to book, see www.eastneukseaweed.com


Photo: Jayson Byles talking Gayle through the different types of seaweed at Kingsbarns.

View original article at: Foraging for seaweed is food for the soul

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A dramatic seaweed invasion has hit coastlines across Florida and the Caribbean, killing wildlife

Shorelines around Florida and the Caribbean have been choked with invaders over the past month. No, it’s not tourists — it’s seaweed.

Sargassum seaweed, which originates in the Gulf of Mexico and is actually a type of algae, has been washing up on beaches and coastlines in vacation-heavy hotspots like Miami and Cancun since July.

The weeds have wreaked havoc on local fauna, choking coral reefs and destroying habitats for birds, sea turtles, and fish. The seaweed deluge has also made life difficult for fisherman, since it is capable of wrecking boat propellers, fishing nets, and engines.

Sargassum seaweed is usually pushed by currents into the Sargasso Sea — a large gyre off the coast of North America — where the floating mats serve as an important habitat for marine organisms.

Researchers are struggling to figure out why the weeds have started washing up on Caribbean coastlines. Some experts say the influx of Sargassum could be fueled by a combination of increased nitrogen pollution from agricultural runoff and rising ocean temperatures, according to The New Republic.

The first Sargassum invasion in the Caribbean was recorded in 2011, according to the BBC.

In some extreme cases, resorts have had to close beaches during the busy summer season to remove the seaweed. Here’s what the invasion looks like:

Sargassum algae is pictured along Punta Piedra beach in Tulum, Mexico on August 11, 2018. REUTERS/Israel LealThe most recent invasions began in July, and experts say they may last through September.

A boat floats on the water, surrounded by Sargassum in Bahia La Media Luna, Mexico on August 5, 2018. AP Photo/Eduardo Verdugo

The island of Barbados declared a national emergency in August because of the seaweed invasion.

Workers clear Sargassum algae along Punta Piedra beach in Tulum, Mexico on August 11, 2018. REUTERS/Israel Leal

The seaweed can pile up to 7 meters thick (over 22 feet) on coastlines.

Sargassum washes along the shores of Sunny Isles Beach in South Florida on July 11, 2018. AP Photo/Brynn Anderson

“We’ve had mass mortality of sea turtles that have gotten trapped under ever-thickening piles,” Hazel Oxenford, a Barbados-based fisheries biologist at the University of the West Indies, told The New Republic. “When the turtles try to come up for air, they drown.”

In its natural habitat in the Sargasso Sea, the floating algae provides a habitat for fish and crustaceans, which seabirds and sharks then feed on.

Beachgoers swim with seaweed on July 11, 2018, in Sunny Isles Beach, Florida. AP Photo/Brynn Anderson

Researchers struggling to understand these Sargassum blooms have said more research is needed, especially into the role of nitrogen pollution and ocean acidification.

Beachgoers make their way through seaweed on Wednesday, July 11, 2018, in Sunny Isles Beach, Florida. AP Photo/Brynn Anderson

“The issue is that we never know what it’s going to be like — we can have a week or two weeks where it’s very clear and then all of a sudden overnight it washes in,” Larry Basham, chief operating officer of Elite Island Resorts, told the BBC.

Children play on the beach full of Sargassum in Bahia La Media Luna, Mexico on August 5, 2018. AP Photo/Eduardo Verdugo

“It’s yet another man-made problem that’s been thrown at the Caribbean that isn’t our doing,” Oxenford told The New Republic.

Beachgoers pick their way past seaweed on July 11, 2018, in Sunny Isles Beach, Florida. AP Photo/Brynn Anderson


Photo: In this Sunday, Aug. 5, 2018 photo, children play on the beach full of sargassum in Bahia La Media Luna, near Akumal in Quintana Roo state, Mexico. AP Photo/Eduardo Verdugo

View original article at: A dramatic seaweed invasion has hit coastlines across Florida and the Caribbean, killing wildlife

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