I just got home from a really wonderful experience — coastal kelp foraging with RE Wild Food. Run at the edge of the world in Scarborough, a beautiful, remote, misty little corner of Cape Town, this was the most unique and engaging workshop I’ve ever experienced. Foraging for seaweeds and kelp, and then enjoying a five-course meal using those same seaweeds, coastal plants and home-grown veg!
It’s fantastically educational, informative, and interesting, and a really beautiful way to spend a Saturday, rain (as in our case) or shine!
“I started with teaching snorkelling in the kelp forest, teaching about the various seaweeds, fish and small species it provides protection for. Learning how to forage and process seaweed to make it a delicious and nutritious food source was a big added bonus, and I love sharing the knowledge.”– Lindy Taverner, on why she started these workshops.
Foraging for kelp and seaweed
Lindy took us foraging along the Scarborough coastline and there was so much to see. We stopped every few meters to see a new plant, learn how to identify it and how it’s best prepared, and even to taste it. And I was honestly so surprised at the flavours of these ocean plants! They were like salty snacks, picked just like that. And a very fun fact I learned today — there’s only one seaweed on our coast that’s not edible. Acid weed, which produces sulphuric acid and can be identified by the way this acid etches itself onto the rocks around it. Stay clear!
Of course, not all of the other plants work great for food. Dead man’s fingers, for example, are the aloe vera of the sea. Their gel works really well as a skin balm but, like aloe vera, it is not fun to eat.
Throughout the experience, Lindy emphasised the importance of sustainable foraging practices. One of the most important notes she provided is to pick only half of the seaweed and always leave the stem intact. This way, it can quickly regrow, ensuring the long-term sustainability of this abundant resource. She also shared her decision to focus solely on foraging seaweed, excluding marine animals from the activity. This responsible approach helps prevent overharvesting and protects the delicate and incredible local ecosystem.
Kelp foraging tips
A few essential seaweed foraging tips for anyone looking to start:
- Check where it’s legal to forage — some parts of our coastline are legally protected from foraging in order to preserve the species living there.
- Check that there are no sewerage pipes in your area — unfortunately, Cape Town does have sewerage pipes running into the ocean; the kelp and seaweed in these areas are not safe for consumption (for example, both Muizenberg and Sea Point are unsafe places to forage).
- Only take ⅓ to ⅕ of a plant — kelp and seaweed are fast-growing, which makes them fantastic regenerative foraging material. It’s important to leave enough to regrow, and to always leave the stem of the seaweed that attaches to the rocks, otherwise it’ll die and be depleted.
- Take fresh kelp and seaweed only — if kelp has just washed onshore it’s a fantastic food source; but if it’s been there for more than a few hours it’s already going off and you’ll only make yourself sick.
- The best way to preserve it is through drying — you can do this by salting it and leaving it out in the sun, or by baking it at a low heat; then you can store it easily for later!
- Be careful where you walk — there is life everywhere in our rockpools; be careful to step on the rocks and avoid the crustaceans and creatures that sit on them, and be aware that these rocks are often also slippery!
“I love kelp because it is such an incredible life force, a keystone species for marine life. It provides shelter and substance, is a superfood for plants and animals, and with its rapid growth, is a sustainable forging source.”– Lindy Taverner
A seaweed meal
When we had explored and foraged the coastal plants, both in the sea and on the dunes alongside the beach, we all trooped over to Lindy’s beautiful home, where a feast awaited us.
I had expected the food to all taste very seafoody but that turned out to be totally wrong. These ocean plants are far more versatile than you’d think, and can be used to create sweet treats, salty snacks and full-blown meals.
Delicate curls of nori were baked with salt and nutritional yeast to make tasty chips, and also caramelised with sunflower seeds to create an amazing candy! Lindy and her team also served kelp pasta in a lasagna and in a miso soup, and it was incredible in both. Delicious, soft, gluten-free superfood pasta that just grows right here! And to make the pasta, all you do is rinse it, cut it up and put it on to boil.
Lindy’s feast showcased the incredible potential of seaweed in culinary creations. Each course was thoughtfully prepared, highlighting the unique flavours and textures of different seaweed varieties.
Go forth and forage
The RE Wild workshop is an amazing introduction to kelp and seaweed foraging. It’s empowering to know how to identify and prepare these naturally abundant local greens in a world where the average person has so little access to our food’s production. It’s not only a unique adventure, but also an opportunity to deepen our connection with nature and appreciate the abundance it provides.