- Associated Press - Saturday, April 16, 2016

KETCHIKAN, Alaska (AP) - “This is a beautiful patch for harvesting. It’s not in its reproductive stage yet,” seaweed expert Dolly Garza said, pointing to a patch of edible seaweed called fucus at Rotary Beach. “Nothing but dinner.”

Garza, a former Ketchikan resident who now lives in Skidegate, British Columbia, was in town this past week teaching a class on edible beach food. Garza was a guest teacher in a University of Alaska Southeast Ketchikan Campus class on intertidal beach foods, and also gave a public lecture on identifying and preparing seaweeds at the Ketchikan campus library, the Ketchikan Daily News reported (https://bit.ly/1RRL571).

Garza is a former UAS professor and marine advisory agent. She said she harvested seaweed as a child in Ketchikan, but really started studying the different species when she realized that some species were easier to harvest, prepare and share than others.

“It’s very hard to share black seaweed, because that’s a lot of work if you’re going to do a potlatch or a big food item,” Garza said. “So it’s nice to find a seaweed that is easier to harvest, so probably my laziness was the prompter.”

Garza told the audience of 158 that her academic studies in fisheries biology and marine policy began when she was a survival teacher.

“As part of my job at the university, I started teaching survival training,” Garza said, adding, “I moved on to teaching the beach edibles as part of the survival training, and then realized that there was such a huge void in seaweeds. … There is a huge abundance of seaweeds in this area that are fabulous and easy to harvest that we can find along this road system and that we can harvest sustainably, and we are getting vitamins and minerals and good family outings and good times while getting good food.”

During the lecture, Garza discussed seaweed structures and functions, as well as identifying features and characteristics of several specific species and the best ways to prepare them.

Though she presented both the common and scientific names of the species, Garza emphasized that names don’t necessarily matter.

“If after this talk you don’t remember anything about which one was the brown one you want to try, if it’s brown and it’s flat like a sheet of paper, it’s safe to eat (and) it’s worth trying,” Garza said. “Take it home, try it, and if it’s the one you like, you can harvest it for the rest of your life and never know its name. You can give it your own name if you want.”

Pat Palkovic, who attended the lecture, said she’s only harvested seaweed occasionally and didn’t know that many familiar seaweeds are edible.

“I’ve done sea lettuce, but I didn’t know about the other ones” that Garza discussed, Palkovic said. “I knew there are others out there - I just wanted to know more before I started eating them or harvesting them.”

Students enrolled in the UAS intertidal foods course, as well as members of the public, got the chance to go on a field trip led by Garza. About a dozen students, as well as well as a handful of others, searched Mountain Point and Rotary Beach for different types of edible seaweeds. After the field trip, the class met at UAS’ Robertson Building for a cooking class.

The semester-long intertidal foods course is part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Drum Beats Program, which UAS Interim Director Priscilla Schulte said is a food and culture program for Alaska Natives and Native Hawaiians to continue and teach food and culture traditions.

There are eight programs active in the state, and Schulte said the Ketchikan program - which supports the intertidal foods course, scholarships, guest teachers and staff - is in its second of three years. The grant is worth approximately $230,000 annually, according to Schulte.

“We started focusing mainly on mariculture and that includes, of course, the shellfish, the seaweeds - all the tidal foods and beach foods,” Schulte said. “We’re thinking of expanding it more to what we’re calling coastal resources, which could include maybe the deer that wander to the beach or certainly berries.”

The course brings in a number of local experts, and this semester’s guest teachers included Terri Burr, Holly Churchill, Garza, Nathan Jackson, John Reese, and Linda Schrack, all of whom are local culture bearers. However, the courses aim to be a venue for people to share their own knowledge and adaptations, too, Schulte said.

“Some of the class come with a great deal of knowledge, so we also learn from each other,” Schulte said. “I think that’s one of the strengths of this whole experience is that people come with a great deal of knowledge who just want to learn a little bit more or something different. Some people have been gathering these foods for quite a while and preparing them, but they’re learning another way to prepare them in maybe a way that makes it taste better or is easier.”

Gabriella Daniels, who is in the course, said she was interested in learning more about harvesting and preparing beach edibles to build on what she already knew.

“(Before the class, we harvested) just the few things that we knew, and not much more than that. Gumboots was the big ones on the beach, and clams, but not much more than that,” Daniels said, adding, “I didn’t know a lot about what to harvest from the beach and what was edible, so for me, (the class) was where I could learn what I could grab and eat and use at home.”

“We have a gold mine,” she added. “A lot of other people really love this type of resource and we have it right here at our fingertips.”


Information from: Ketchikan (Alaska) Daily News, https://www.ketchikandailynews.com

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