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Kodiak residents learn to harvest, cook with kelp

Posted: March 31, 2012 - 11:05pm
Gayla Pedersen picks up a piece of ribbon kelp at the Alutiiq Wild Foods Project on Wednesday, March 28, 2012 at Lake Gertrude Beach in Kodiak, Alaska. (AP Photo/Nicole Klauss, Kodiak Daily Mirror)  Nicole Klauss
Nicole Klauss
Gayla Pedersen picks up a piece of ribbon kelp at the Alutiiq Wild Foods Project on Wednesday, March 28, 2012 at Lake Gertrude Beach in Kodiak, Alaska. (AP Photo/Nicole Klauss, Kodiak Daily Mirror)

KODIAK — Some who attended the Alutiiq Wild Foods Project event on Wednesday were surprised to find out that all kelp in Kodiak is safe to use in the kitchen.

In fact, they learned, all kelp in Alaska is edible.

A dozen people, including some Alutiiq Museum staff, met at Fort Abercrombie’s Lake Gertrude Beach to learn about harvesting kelp.

Some had dabbled in using kelp in their gardens, but most were new to thinking of it as a menu item.

“I’ve always been interested in trying it, so it’s nice to know that it’s OK to eat the kelp,” said participant Jessica Horn.

The group was originally supposed to harvest kelp at the event, but due to a higher than expected tide and rainy weather, the attendees just had a discussion about harvesting the plants and the different ways they can be used.

Gayla Pedersen, one of Kodiak’s kelp experts, led the event. Pedersen has an extensive background in working with kelp and other plants on the island.

She gained much of her knowledge from working with local tribes, hiking the trails and learning from one of her friends, Frances Kelso Graham, author of “The Plant Lore of an Alaskan Island.”

“I focus on how to use kelp in everyday life,” Pedersen said. “Seaweed far surpasses mineral content than land plants. You can use it the way you would any other vegetable, raw or cooked.”

Once dried, kelp has a variety of uses in the kitchen. It can be deep-fried, mixed with salads, or ground up with herbs to make spices.

Dry seaweed can be mulched in gardens to help plants grow.

The only part of the kelp that shouldn’t be eaten is the bulb.

“The only thing to be cautious of is the bulb on the top,” Pedersen said. “That has gas and can give you a stomach ache, but won’t kill you.”

Cindy Bower, a two-year Kodiak resident, attended the event to learn about harvesting kelp as a food source in case Kodiak ever loses its outside food deliveries.

“If we got cut off, I wanted to know what I could eat,” Bower said.

Kelp is best harvested from the area where it is still growing.

It is not recommended to take the kelp that has washed up on the beach, because kelp retains its shape when dead and could be a few months old or contaminated.

The next Alutiiq Wild Foods Project event will be at the Alutiiq Museum, April 18 at noon. The event will teach people the process of making salt cod and how to rehydrate it.

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