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Kelp! I Need Somebody...

I just got back from a trip our to Lopez Island, a bucolic stop on the ferry ride around the archipelago off the coast of northern Washington. My friend Saskia spends time out there with her family, and she’s pretty much the fairy godmother of the food challenge.

“Here,” she says as I walk in the door of the cabin. “I made some salt for you.” She has carefully evaporated salt water to make a fine-grained delicious salt. It’s vastly better than the gray metallic-tasting stuff I make on the propane stove at home. The secret is to evaporate the water slowly, on the woodstove instead of boiling gallons so fast on the propane stove outside that the metal on the bottom of the pot warps. I have been reluctant to make salt inside the house, because of the resulting clouds of steam that fog the windows and drip water from the ceiling, but the woodstove method is worth a try.

The sea provided something I think will be essential for our health in a year of eating primarily from our inland farm—big fronds of kelp. Saskia and I went out in her kayak, finding the still-intact kelp beds and slicing off fronds. We heaved the slippery strands into our laps and paddled for shore, where we dried some right away and filled buckets with the best fronds for me to take home. Saskia’s whole family helped me haul buckets of sea water up to the car. Now every time I pop a strand of kelp into a pot of soup, I will remember that bright October sunrise of paddling through the ocean swells, a great blue heron rising from the rocks as we approached, and the friendship of gathering food together.

Here's T-bone is "staffing the farm kelpline" to dry out the tasty fronds.

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