Introduction: How to Harvest Kombu

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Photo by Marla Aufmuth

Kombu is the Japanese term for the genus Lamaria, a category of brown algae or "kelp." There are many varieties: winged kelp, sugar kelp, horsetail kelp, Devil's Apron... The leaves are often large and leathery; it’s all edible, but some have better tastes and textures than others.

Step 1: Check Your Tide Book

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Photo by Marla Aufmuth

Collect seaweed when the tide is low. Once it’s dry on the beach, insects may be breaking it down, so collect in the water, just below the tide line. Avoid any that look like something has been chewing on them.

Step 2: Snip Sparingly

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Photo by Marla Aufmuth

Don’t yank seaweed from the rock it’s anchored to. Kombu has about five or six "fingers" or leaves on it. Don't snip more than a few off. A good rule of thumb when wild crafting is to never take more than 1/3 from each plant so it can grow back.

Step 3: Rinse Off in Ocean and Trim Messy Ends

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Photo by Marla Aufmuth

The cold, flowing salt water is a good place to first rinse the seaweed. Remove any grit or living creatures like snails. Trimming the ends is easiest when it's wet, and there's no point in carrying added weight back. (But if you do trim them later, they make great fertilizer for your garden.)

Step 4: Rinse With Fresh Water and Store

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Photo by Marla Aufmuth

I've heard a lot of debate about whether or not your should rinse seaweed in fresh water. Some people claim it takes away the saltiness. Other's have said it shocks them into producing more salt. And some people think it makes no difference. I do rinse with fresh water, and then dry on a pasta rack or my laundry line. Then you can store these in a plastic bag for a really long time. (Over a year and still counting).

I'm going to be posting more instructables on using kombu, but to start, you can check these out.

Homemade SPAM with Kombu Misubi

Homemade Salmon SPAM with Kombu Misubi

Dashi Broth Made with a French Press

Comments

Phasmatrope (author)2016-08-08

Hi guys!! Sorry for the belated Comment/question, but how should one safely clean/sterilize the seaweed after you catch it?? Just rinse it in cold/warm/boiling tap water? Let it soak in vinegar? (which I hear is good for cleaning traditional produce of pesticides and the like; I don't know about seaweed though)

Maybe I'm overthinking things, but 've heard about harmful bacteria in the ocean, from the red tide etc (and some of the worse food poisoning I've come down with was from eating bad seafood), and was actually thinking of trying to ferment the seaweed afterwards/make it into a kraut or kimchi (so obviously I'm leery about fermenting it --and potentially growing MORE bacteria-- if there's potentially already bad bacteria in there).

Thanks!!

Jobar007 (author)2014-07-23

I think that I'm going to try this on Bull Kelp that grows here on the western coast of North America.

The Green Gentleman (author)2014-07-23

I think you're right about the fresh water. The folks who think fresh water makes Kombu create more salt might confusing seaweed with a fusion reactor. For seaweed, the salt (sodium chloride) is either there or it isn't. If you rinse/soak in freshwater, it will extract anything that can pass through the cell walls, through osmosis, which should include dissolved salts like sodium chloride (which makes up ~95% of the dissolved salts in seawater). On a side note, this is a really nice instructable, and is very attractive. I wish I lived near a place where Kombu grows.

Looking forward to trying more of these!

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