Food & Wine

Far South Coast beaches awash with edible treasures

Contributor 24 November 2019

Stuart Whitelaw, Michelle Mitchell and daughter Lulu. Photo: Kat McCarthy.

It took just one sparkling morning of foraging on a Bingie beach to convince a group of local mums about the magic and power of seaweed.

Seaweed enthusiast Stuart Whitelaw, a long-time gardener, author/teacher of TAFE permaculture courses and presenter for Sustainable Agriculture & Gardening Eurobodalla (SAGE), hosted a hands-on workshop at his Bingie property. He shared foraging, harvesting, preparation and cooking tips to help attendees harness the ‘seven wonders’ of seaweed.

Seaweed workshop attendees. Photo: Kat McCarthy.

Seaweeds have broad uses as a plant bio-stimulant; soil conditioner and fertiliser; as a biofuel and for industrial uses; to feed animals and as a human health food. Stuart’s love of seaweed was sealed by the realisation that as beach-dwellers, we have unfettered access to a precious natural food source.

“I’d been very keen on seaweed for quite a while, but not for eating – I’d make seaweed concentrate, put it on the garden and would get great results,” he says.

“But there was a moment when our son’s Japanese host mum, Miruko Murata, stayed with us. She looked into the ocean and she could not believe that we were just walking past all of this prime food. In Japan, fresh kelp from pristine waters is as highly prized as sashimi.”

Seaweed workshop attendees. Photo: Kat McCarthy.

Workshop foragers – including pint-sized beach-lovers – found ocean treasures including sea lettuce, golden kelp, sargassum, nori, dead man’s fingers, samphire and caulerpa (also referred to as sea grapes or sea caviar).

Stuart explained that sea lettuce, nori and kelp could be dried, crushed and used as a seasoning, while samphire could be pickled or added to stir-fry dishes.

Golden kelp and caulerpa. Photo: Kat McCarthy.

Following the beach forage, he demonstrated how to prepare a seaweed salad by blanching, slicing and seasoning golden kelp. Seaweed could also be added to a hot bath, he said, to act as a body scrub, moisturiser and conditioner.

“Once you understand what to look for and how to collect it, it’s wonderful,” he says.

“Some types and tastes are more palatable to us than others, but it’s interesting because various cultures have different views about what feels good in the mouth.”

Regina Knobel and daughter Lotte. Photo: Kat McCarthy.

Responsible collection of seaweed meant considering legalities and health impacts, Stuart says. Beach collection is allowed in general use zones and habitat protection zones, but a permit is required to collect more than 20 litres per person, per day.

“It’s best to collect free-floating seaweed – you’re not allowed to collect anything that’s attached to the rocks in a national park,” Stuart explains.

“Always err on the side of caution: if you’re harvesting nori or sea lettuce outside of the national park, don’t take the whole plant, just a leaf here and there.

“Seaweeds can absorb heavy metals, so collect from unpolluted areas. Some local seaweed had been found to have elevated levels of arsenic, but advice from a University of Wollongong researcher was that the type of arsenic and the amounts likely to be consumed would not pose a health risk.”

Samphire. Photo: Kat McCarthy.

Workshop attendees say Stuart has ignited a new appreciation of gifts from the ocean.

“I’m someone who previously felt ill at even the suggestion of sushi and who has a phobia of snorkelling because of the scary seaweed in the water,” says Alice Ansara of Moruya.

“I’m now in love with it – I’ve been making golden kelp salad for all my visitors and lovingly laying it on my garden. I’ve found a new respect for seaweed and I’m seeing it in a completely different way when I go to the beach.”

Preparing golden kelp seaweed salad. Photo: Kat McCarthy.

Regina Knobel of Broulee says foraging gives immense rewards.

“I didn’t realise that we have such an abundance of nutritious food washing ashore on our local beaches,” she says.

“I love the idea of searching for my food in nature. Since the workshop, I’ve been experimenting with new recipes.”

For information about Stuart Whitelaw’s seaweed workshops, contact SAGE.

Golden kelp seaweed salad. Photo: Kat McCarthy.

Words by Kat McCarthy

What's Your Opinion?

26 Responses to Far South Coast beaches awash with edible treasures

Jenifer Mather Jenifer Mather 1:01 pm 25 Nov 19

Collecting seaweed from beaches is permitted within habitat protection zones and general use zones. Collecting more than 20 litres per person per day requires a permit.

Collecting is not allowed in sanctuary zones, which provide the highest level of protection to biodiversity and natural and cultural features.

Julie Winter Julie Winter 8:20 am 25 Nov 19

Margaret Scott looks interesting. ☺️

Beverley Anne Beverley Anne 8:27 pm 24 Nov 19

Tegan Williams - I’ve just sent them an email! I’d love to do this.

Johanne Bull, Megan Robson, Dominique Greenaway, Nicci Eastham, Sally Phillips

    Johanne Bull Johanne Bull 8:38 pm 24 Nov 19

    Beverley Anne yes I really want to do it let's contact and find the next date

    Sally Phillips Sally Phillips 8:46 pm 24 Nov 19

    Beverley Anne would love to do as well !

    Beverley Anne Beverley Anne 9:22 pm 24 Nov 19

    Johanne Bull I’ve emailed them already 😆

    Beverley Anne Beverley Anne 9:22 pm 24 Nov 19

    Sally Phillips I’ll let you know if I hear back from them Sally 💛

    Tegan Williams Tegan Williams 6:47 am 25 Nov 19

    Beverley Anne this would be awesome and so much fun

Roz Hunter Roz Hunter 4:25 pm 24 Nov 19

I have been told it’s illegal to take seaweed off the beach !

    About Regional About Regional 4:59 pm 24 Nov 19

    Roz Hunter Hi Roz, from the article - “Responsible collection of seaweed meant considering legalities and health impacts, Stuart says. Beach collection is allowed in general use zones and habitat protection zones, but a permit is required to collect more than 20 litres per person, per day.”

    Roz Hunter Roz Hunter 7:15 am 25 Nov 19

    Thanks for the info I’ll keep within 20 litres per day , do you know why they measure seaweed in litres ?

    Jenifer Mather Jenifer Mather 1:04 pm 25 Nov 19

    Roz Hunter I thought so too, in some parts of it is -

    Collecting seaweed from beaches is permitted within habitat protection zones and general use zones. Collecting more than 20 litres per person per day requires a permit.

    Collecting is not allowed in sanctuary zones, which provide the highest level of protection to biodiversity and natural and cultural features.

    Denise Joy Denise Joy 4:23 pm 27 Nov 19

    Roz Hunter I guess if you use a 20litre bucket it's easier than carrying scales

Denise Walsh Denise Walsh 1:51 pm 24 Nov 19

Can we not leave anything alone ? We consider every resource is there for us to exploit and there are just too many of us 😩

    Beverley Anne Beverley Anne 8:29 pm 24 Nov 19

    Denise Walsh I would think that seaweed is a very under-utilised resource.

    Learning to gather our food from the land, rather than relying solely on the supermarket and mass farming practices is surely a good thing?

    Denise Joy Denise Joy 4:24 pm 27 Nov 19

    Denise Walsh we need to eat.. As all living things do. At least it's not living and rotting on beaches

    Beverley Anne Beverley Anne 5:36 pm 27 Nov 19

    Personally, I’d rather we adapted to eat things that are more readily available and result in less chemicals being used in the environment. Seaweed, bugs etc

    This makes less of footprint on the landscape than many other farming practices.

    What would you propose we eat?

Tess Wine Tess Wine 9:56 am 24 Nov 19

I have always loved seaweed salad with sushi, but Gundagai is a ling way from the sea, so I will have to go gathering when I visit my sister at Tuross Head!

Hannah Angus Hannah Angus 9:54 am 24 Nov 19

Totally there!!

Marina Ely Marina Ely 9:12 am 24 Nov 19

Hannah we should do this if it runs again! 😋❤️

Emilie Bird Emilie Bird 8:56 am 24 Nov 19

Just emailed SAGE for info on more workshops. Looks amazing!

Steve Jackson Steve Jackson 8:36 am 24 Nov 19

Lesley Marie Boileau thought you’d find this interesting.

    Lesley Marie Boileau Lesley Marie Boileau 12:04 am 25 Nov 19

    Steve Jackson this is really cool!

Leecarol Potts Leecarol Potts 8:01 am 24 Nov 19

Sounds so interesting

Gayle Millett Gayle Millett 7:43 am 24 Nov 19

Would love to do this workshop,if it runs again!

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