The New England Seaweed Harvesting and Coastline Foraging Guide
Updated: Jan 17
New England's shoreline is teeming with a hidden superfood, seaweed. Recently, seaweed has begun to emerge as a superfood commanding huge amounts of money for a tiny bottle of dried capsules. Why buy it when you can just get it yourself? Humans have been coastal foraging and harvesting seaweed for thousands of years, and the rocky shores of the Northeast are the perfect environment for many delicious varieties of wild seaweed. We've put together this guide and picked the five best seaweeds to get you started in your foraging journey. We hope you enjoy the health benefits and self-reliance that foraging your own wild seaweed offers.
Is foraging seaweed legal?
Foraging seaweed is legal in all six New England states for residents and non-residents, and no permit is required. In certain areas foraging is restricted, and of course, be mindful of property lines to ensure you are not trespassing. If you have any questions, call your state fisheries department, we've listed all of the department phone numbers per state below.
Harvesting for personal consumption is permitted in Maine for residents and non-residents. Under Maine law, up to 50 pounds per day can be harvested for personal use. A license or permit is not required. The phone number for Maine's department of fisheries is 706-557-3305.
Harvesting is legal in Rhode Island for residents and non-residents without a permit, and the state makes no mention of the amount of seaweed you're allowed to forage. Because of this, we recommend taking only what you need and leaving the rest behind. The Rhode Island fisheries department's phone number is 401-423-1923. The one exception is that only residents of the town of Barrington may harvest seaweed from Barrington's beaches.
In New Hampshire, residents and non-residents may harvest up to 3 bushels per person per day for their own personal use. One bushel is about 9 gallons, which is a lot of seaweed! A license or permit is not required to harvest seaweed in New Hampshire. The New Hampshire fisheries department phone number is 603-271-3421.
Collecting and harvest seaweed is legal for personal use in Connecticut without regulation on the quantity harvested. The Connecticut fisheries department phone number is 860-424-3474.
Is eating wild seaweed safe?
There are no known poisonous or toxic seaweeds, however, some are definitely more enjoyable for eating than others. Foraging seaweed is safe as long as you ensure the water quality where you are harvesting is clean. The BEACH act requires that all New England beaches do routine water quality testing of public beaches, and this information is available to you through the state fisheries department.
Rinse and wash your harvested seaweed to avoid unwanted critters. If the seaweed is floating or sitting on the beach it could be spoiling and should be left alone. Signs of spoilage could be loss of color, smell, or holes throughout the blades of the seaweed. A good rule of thumb to guarantee freshness is to only harvest seaweed that is still attached to its holdfast. Some seaweeds such as sugar kelp contain high levels of iodide, and foragers should be mindful of consuming it in large quantities.
Is Wild Seaweed Healthy?
Search for seaweed supplements and you'll find countless products from the very seaweeds listed in this article that you can harvest on your own. Wild seaweed has high nutritional value as a source of polyunsaturated fatty acids, proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals. According to a recent study, seaweed has a mineral content at least 10 times higher than terrestrial plants. Seaweed has also been found to be the only naturally occurring source of vitamin B12 in plants suitable for humans to get the recommended daily amount. For instance, four grams of dried purple laver supplies the recommended daily dose of vitamin B12.
How to forage seaweed.
Foraging for seaweed is best done in tidal zones at low tide and in New England, late winter, spring, and fall are the best times of the year to harvest.
It's important to be safe while foraging, so be sure to check the weather conditions before going. Use windfinder to help you pick days with low or off-shore wind. Next, figure out when low tide is by using www.usharbors.com. Don't pick days with big waves. You can use Magic Seaweed to look at wave conditions.
Bring a wooden basket to collect the seaweed, and use a knife or scissors to remove the blades. Leave the holdfast attached to the rock so the seaweed can regrow quickly, and don't over-harvest.
how to cook Wild Seaweed
There are countless ways to cook wild seaweed. Among the simplest of them are drying or dehydrating them and turning them into chips, lightly frying them, adding them to soups, and adding them to salads. If you're a little braver, you can make sea moss gel and blend it into smoothies. Sea moss is currently being labeled as the newest superfood on the market, and sea moss gel is being sold for upwards of $40.00 for a 16-ounce jar.
5 edible wild seaweeds to forage
Here are five of the best edible seaweeds to get you started foraging in New England. These seaweeds are easy to identify and common throughout this region. There are no poisonous seaweeds in the area, so foragers can relax when harvesting, just be mindful of the quality of water you are harvesting from and call your state fisheries department if you are uncertain.
Sea Lettuce is one of the best seaweeds to begin foraging for. It's easy to identify and delicious. You can find it in intertidal zones attached to rocks. The best time to harvest sea lettuce is in the spring and early summer. Separate the leafy blades from the holdfast where it attaches to the rock. Sometimes it will be detached from the rock, in this case, if it has a healthy color and is not full of holes, it is still good to eat. Take it home and thoroughly rinse it under fresh water to remove substrate and critters. Sea Lettuce has a briny flavor. It can be eaten raw and mixed into salads, dehydrated into crisps, cooked in soups, or pickled
Dulse is a widespread red seaweed, and is easy to identify and begin eating. Dulse is harvested during low tide in spring to fall near rocky tidal zones.1 pound of Dulse dried as a powder sells for $50.00 a pound! Here is a greatrecipe for making Dulse Chips!
Sugar Kelp is another edible seaweed of the New England coastline. It can be found during low tide, but occasionally will require wading into the water. Sugar Kelp is the closest related seaweed to Japanese Konbu, and it is great to add to soups, or dehydrated and eaten raw, or lightly fried. The best time of year to harvest Sugar Kelp is during the colder months, spring and fall. Walking the coastline after a storm is often a great time to find freshly detached Sugar Kelp.
Kelp Snacks are everywhere right now, and for good reason.According to the USDA, one cup of dried kelp, or about 100 grams, contains protein, vitamin A, magnesium, calcium, zinc, and superfood qualities. And with 10-ounce cans of pickled kelp selling for $15.00, foraging your own kelp pays dividends for this marine algae that can grow up to 16 feet.
Irish moss is also called sea moss, and it became popularized by celebrities like Kim Kardashian posting videos drinking "sea moss smoothies". Those celebrities were onto something because sea moss is loaded with super-food qualities, and it's one of the only naturally occurring sources of B12 that is vegan-friendly. Sea moss was also shown inone study to protect against neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson's in laboratory worms.
Badderwrack is another seaweed hailed for its medicinal properties and nutrition. and is great for beginner foragers in New England to harvest. The best time to harvest bladderwrack is in the spring and early summer off the rocks in tidal zones. And, withMichelin-star restaurants in New York serving wild bladderwrack, it's easy to understand why this is another great seaweed to forage. Another great use for bladderwrack is to use it while cooking other seafoods, such as lobster, to impart flavor. Just put it in the pot while cooking lobster, mussels, or clams.
Other Uses for Seaweed
Seaweed is widely used in cosmetic products, and the market for seaweed in cosmetics is forecasted to surpass $300 million in the coming years, according to one study. If you ever wanted to create an interesting side hustle, you could look into making your own soap with seaweed or hand and body lotions. Seaweed has also been used medicinally for centuries in treating skin rashes, burns, and wounds.
Making your own Sea salt
If you're foraging the coastline, it seems only logical to consider making your own sea salt. Making your own sea salt is easy and can be done in three easy steps. You'll want to collect sea water and strain it into a large pot, simmer the water leaving the salt behind, then dry the salt by baking it at the lowest temperature in your oven. The salt will last forever as long as you keep it cool and dry. By making your own sea salt, you can easily avoid the preservatives found in most of the salt you buy, such as bleach, anti-caking agents, and iodide, and you'll also be getting trace minerals such as calcium, magnesium, and potassium
Foraging Shellfish in New England
Seaweed is not the only superfood that can be found along the New England Coastline. Shellfish thrive here too in the tidal zones, but foragers can be excited to know that there are far more than just clams that can be harvested along the coastline. In Rhode Island, there are many harvestable shellfish including the invasive periwinkle, which many people say tastes like clams, escargot, or even lobster. If you're foraging for seaweed, consider collecting a few invasive periwinkles, steaming them, and serving them with butter and garlic. You can use your own homemade sea salt to boot. You can view this map to see where you're allowed to find shellfish in Rhode Island
Foraging For Seaweed in New York.
New York, while not in New England, still has excellent foraging opportunities for edible seaweed and shellfish. It is legal to forage for seaweed in New York without a license, and bladderwrack, Sea lettuce, Irish moss, sugar kelp, and dulse are all edible types of seaweed found in New York waters. New York does not regulate recreational harvesters from collecting seaweed.
Foraging wild seaweed is a great way to connect with nature, offering health benefits and self-reliance, as well as positively impacting the environment by reducing plastic waste and your carbon footprint. New England is a great place to learn to harvest seaweed. Be safe, and happy hunting!