Spring Hunting and Gathering

Took my buddy Jeff bear hunting. He loves to eat black bear. I’ve eaten it, but never been interested in hunting for bear. I have been wanting to harvest some kelp to make relish, salsa and pickles. And especially after attending the kelp farming workshop this winter, I was armed with a lot more information on how kelp grows and this made me more enthusiastic to harvest some, which I’ve never done.

The weather has been hot, hot, hot. I used to say I never need it warmer than 70 degrees. Well, it’s 70 degrees. No I say, I never need it warmer than 60 degrees. We left on a bluebird day at 6 am with light winds and blue skies.

The spring bear hunting trips I’ve tagged along on in Southeast Alaska are pretty simple. You cruise the beaches looking for bears to be out eating the new grasses on the beach. South of Juneau,  you travel on the waterways between primary land masses of the mainland and Admiralty Island. There are both black and brown bears on the mainland, and only brown bears on Admiralty Island. So we ran the mainland shore. We saw some killer whales at the mouth of the Taku River in Taku Inlet. We saw humpback whales a couple times down Stephens Passage. There were about 50 sea lions barking at each other on a haul out. Lots of cruiser boats were in Taku Harbor. We turned into Port Snettisham and found some beautiful coves.  What a day.

We didn’t see any bears. We did pick bull kelp in a couple spots. This was my first time harvesting. In the second spot, the kelp had herring spawn on it. We each tried it, and then it was game on. One swath of spawn on kelp for the cooler, one to eat. One swath for the cooler, one to eat. I thought I was way over doing it but couldn’t help myself and we filled the cooler. I thought – I’m gonna regret this when I get home and have to process it all. It was all very exciting understanding what I was seeing on the kelp. The plants we were picking had grown all this mass since last fall, and the brown splotches on the fronds were the spores that are the seed that would eventually release to seed next year’s crop.

Turns out, what we harvested was just right. The processed kelp broke down to about 16 lbs of stipe, a 6 gallon bucket of naked frond, and 3 gallons of fronds with spawn. The stipes should make a batch each of relish, pickles, and salsa. I vac packed the spawn on kelp pieces. The naked fronds I hung in the garage to dry. I’ll plan to somehow pulverized the dried kelp to use later as a powder for seasoning.

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