In celebration of this year’s Sea Week (6th-14th March 2021), we decided to celebrate our favourite oceanic vegetable – seaweed. We’ve previously talked about the nutritional benefits and now we’re taking a look at seaweeds’ potential to drive environmental, social and economic impact.
Seaweed is a silent hero in our environment with exploration into the use of seaweed in biofuel production and livestock feed (lowering methane emissions from cattle). Seaweed is also a great substitute for synthetic fertilizer, a natural, readily available alternative that is shown to improve soil quality. It is also doing a great deal of work to naturally restore temperatures and alkalise the rising acidity levels in our ocean.
“It turns out that kelp and seaweed are nature’s climate warriors and cultivating them at scale could counteract ocean acidification, climate change and loss of biodiversity.”
The farming of seaweed is referred to as marine permaculture. Research shows that if 9% of the planet’s ocean surface was used for seaweed farming, we could remove 53 billion tonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere per year. As well as an effective animal feed, marine permaculture could also help troubleshoot the impending global food shortage for humans. By the year 2040 it’s estimated we will have 9 billion mouths to feed on earth.
“Marine permaculture requires no fresh water, no deforestation, and no fertiliser. It simply sets up the conditions that are needed for these natural processes to take over that will help restore balance to our oceans”.
Globally, seaweed farming has become the fastest-growing sector of food production, increasing by 8% every year. For some countries it could provide a sustainable source of food, store carbon to help mitigate climate damage, create jobs for coastal communities and cater as a ecotourism destination with abundant sea life available.
SUPERHERO TO SUPERFOOD
Just as seaweed acts as an environmental sponge which absorb toxins to neutralise the ocean, they do the same in our gut. Sea vegetables are delicious, nutritious and can be used in a host of tasty recipes. High in fibre, iodine, protein, trace elements, and other nutrients, seaweed has played a vital part in many culinary traditions. Seaweed is already a staple in many cultures around the world, and has been for centuries. For Maori, Karengo in particular played a crucial role in winter diets due to its high nutrient content.
Pacific Harvest have been responsibly harvesting seaweeds from clean water for more than 18 years. Their website is a great place for sea vegetable recipes and cooking techniques. Or check out our blog ‘5 Ways With Seaweed’. We sell a large range of Pacific Harvest products in store and online.
Thrive Magazine also has a great online guide to foraging for New Zealand edible seaweed- https://thrivemagazine.co.nz/food/foraging-guide-edible-new-zealand-seaweed