Kate Marianchild has been gathering ocean vegetables from the coastline of Mendocino, California, for more than twenty years. She spends late spring and early summer picking the tenderest wakame, nori, sea palm, and other edible sea plants, which her company, Rising Tide Sea Vegetables, sells to retail stores and by mail order. “The first time I tasted wild seaweed, I was astonished by its succulent sweetness,” says Kate. The sun-dried vegetables are delicious plain and in soups, salads, and pasta.
The job isn’t lucrative, nor are the conditions exactly cushy. Harvesting must be done when the water is low, so work hours are ruled by the tides. For Kate, a licensed harvester, and those who work with her, this means getting up before dawn and braving cold weather, cold water, and big waves. But the payoff is plentiful. “I’m following a lifelong dream, harvesting wild food and living as close as I can to the sea,” says Kate.