Odd Oregon Coast Facts: Have Your Bull Kelp - and Eat it Too
(Oregon Coast) – Oh, the mysterious, massive bull kelp along the Oregon coast. So many facets. So much confusion. Many surprises – some as big as the bulging bulbs of green and brown themselves.
Talk to folks at the Hatfield Marine Science Center and you'll get an interesting scientific overview:
Bull Kelp are a large, brown algae that grow in "forests" near the shore. These kelp are annuals, completing their life cycle in one season, and can grow up to 20 meters (60 feet) in one year.
At the bottom, their branching "holdfasts" anchor the kelp, although some are torn free in storms. Their long stipes (stems) tangle together to form large piles, as you see in the photograph. Their floats have a high proportion of carbon monoxide and to keep the blades (leaves) near the surface for photosynthesis.
Their smooth, roundish shapes, when bobbing in the ocean, are sometimes confused with seals.
They live in vast underwater forests right off the Oregon coast. Bull kelp have massive blades stretching as long as 100 feet, and they form an intricate aquatic habitat that is vital to the survival of many coastal species.
|Bull kelp photo courtesy Seaside Aquarium
A few years ago, Tiffany Boothe of the Seaside Aquarium photographed a huge wash of these funky and fascinating features of the beach. The stranding of these was some of the biggest the crew at the aquarium had seen in a while.
“The latest winds littered the beach with Bull Kelp, one of the largest species of kelp in the world,” Booth said.
You'll find them in enormous piles sometimes along the beaches, especially after stormy periods. It doesn't take them long to become a bit unpleasantly aromatic if they're stuck on a beach for a while: meaning they start to stink.
Interestingly enough, bull kelp off the Oregon coast are quite edible, though you'll want to harvest them fresh from their strand in the ocean, which means don't go trying to gobble them off the beach when you find them there.
They are said to be quite delicious and tender when cooked or marinated.
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