Sea Oak or otherwise known as Cystoceira is not a well-known seaweed. But it’s out there. Cystoceira is in the lower intertidal zone floating on top. I honestly thought my teacher was calling it Sister Sarah. I believe the species on the West Coast is called Stephanocystic osmundacea formerly Cystoceira osmundacea. Don’t quote me on that. I’m still working on my mermaid skills.
I’ve been seaweeding or seaweed harvesting a couple of times with a group through classes. The first time I had to drive to a place where the cows lie on the beach and occasionally a cow looks at you like you are a very rare sight. Mostly, rocky beaches with little population are teeming with edible seaweed from my experience.
As far as finding Sea Oak looking at not very detailed maps it looks like you can find it up and down the California coast except Santa Barbara. I have never seen it in Southern California, but if I were to look I would head to La Jolla where it is rocky. Also, seaweed can be there one day then gone the next. The last sighting of Sea Oak and other algae like Nori was in Sea Ranch, California. You might find Sea Oak as far south as Tijuana, Mexico and as far north as the northern part of Washington. UC Berkley has further information on Cystoceira.
Check NOAA to find out when there is a low tide. Low tide will give you access to more seaweed. It helps to go out in fishing gear with waders and the shoes that you buy with the waders. Or just get beach shoes which may be best so you don’t step on baby sea stars. The thinner the shoe the more you can feel underfoot. Wear a wetsuit or clothes you don’t care about getting wet in. In Northern California, it can get cold and windy even in the spring and summer when this perennial algae grows. Bring an extra set of clothes and socks to change in after harvesting.
You will need a pocketknife, which I store in my waders, and a plastic bag. I have someone spot me to let me know if a wave is coming in. Cut the fern looking parts and the chain bladder that looks like a green pearl necklace. Don’t cut down to the leaves that look like oak leaf. And always leave the holdfast/root intact so more seaweed can grow. You won’t see the holdfast in the murky water. Cystoceira doesn’t need to be clean because it is getting hit by the waves. Other seaweed you will need a colander to clean the seaweed in the ocean water. Only wash your seaweed with fresh water if it is necessary or the flavor will be washed away. A salad spinner might be best to get out the tiny snails in Nori if you find that well-known seaweed usually on rocks. I clean the seaweed as best I can otherwise I have to take the snails back to the beach in a Mason jar if they make it. But I haven’t found any little creatures in my Cystoceira. Also, take a backpack to haul equipment and I’ve seen some people hook their colander onto a backpack. Don’t forget some water and a snack because you could be walking half ten minutes to the beach.
As soon as you get home or to camp, you will use the appropriate size Mason jar. Most people I harvest with are happy with a handful of Cystoceira for a 16-ounce or 32-ounce Mason jar. I prefer to pick more for a 48-ounce jar that way it lasts for the year until I can harvest more next year. Also, consider labeling the Cystoceira by adding the date and where it was harvested. It is usable after two weeks of marinating.
I treat Cystoceira like pickle relish and top on a hot dog or a tofu burger. Some add it to their sauerkraut or kimchi.
Pickled Cystoceira (Sea Oak)
1 part tamari
1 part apple cider vinegar
1/2 part water
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 inch ginger, grated
Use scissors to snip 2” pieces into a wide mouth 48-ounce Mason jar. Chop garlic and grate ginger then put in jar. Pour in tamari and apple cider vinegar. Add purified water if you want to dampen the vinegar a bit. I store my pickled Cystoceira in the pantry. I never refrigerate it.
Top seaweed on a vegan Lightlife Smart Dog. Unfortunately, the hot dog is not gluten free, but vital wheat gluten is last on the list of ingredients. So yeah this is a once a year meal sort of thing for me. It’s difficult to find gluten free, vegan hot dogs. I use vegan, gluten free Little Northern Bakehouse hot dog buns. Lightly toast the bun. Toasting gluten free bread always makes the texture better.
Happy 4th of July, Americans. You are free only if you demand it. So enjoy life! I also hear the New Era begins on July 4th, 2021. I imagine most of us won’t even notice a change. I believe the future is bright because that is how I choose it to be.
Recipe from blog of melissacrismon.com
Copyright 2021 Melissa Crismon
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