If you live near the ocean, or plan to visit, you can find some worthwhile foraging along the shore. There are pretty things, useful things to make into tools, building supplies, and also things to eat. A stretch of sand, a cobblestone shore, a tidepool, or expanse of dunes can all reveal treasures brought in by the tides. Often the best beach scavenging can be found after a storm, although any time of low tide should do nicely.
Useful Things Beachcombers Can Find
- Seaweed - Many types of seaweed can be cooked and enjoyed in many flavorful, nutritious dishes. Asian cultures use seaweed and kelp regularly in their cooking. Kelp, as Agar, is very frequently found as a binding ingredient in many everyday formulas, like toothpaste and glue. A bladderwrack pod, when popped, is a soothing agent for sunburn, just like aloe vera. Seaweed can also be used to make baskets.
- Fishes, Shellfish and Crustaceans - Much of the teeming life you see in tidepools or along the shore is edible. Some are delicious, some are less so, and some are absolutely not to be eaten. If you wish to eat what you find in tidepools, you will need to do your research first, and make sure you are careful to not remove any protected species. If you live in the Pacific Northwest, you can dig up giant clams known as Geoducks. Think about hunting for clams and mussels, scallops and shrimp.
- Shells - Minus the animal, seashells are pretty, can be sold for cash, or are useful in their own right. I have used shells as dippers, spoons and even bowls (some are quite large and round). An edge can be used for a cutting implement and the blunt ends can be fashioned into a mallet. String them into jewelry, macrame or along wind chimes.You can use a glue gun to decorate almost anything with little shells, making a natural mosaic. You can use your crafts, sell them, or give them to people as gifts. Be careful to collect only empty shells for non-food purposes. No need to kill a living creature unless you intend to eat it.
- Sea Glass - Old pieces of broken glass, tumbled in the ocean long enough, turn into pretty gems that sparkle on the beach. Clear, brown and greens are the most common, but I have also found cobalt blue, light blue, milky white, sun purple and red sea glass. I have also found sea marbles! Sea glass can be made into jewelry, or just spread them out in a pretty bowl. Add them to plant pots, a salt water aquarium, or a water feature. Don't add them to freshwater fish tanks unless you are sure you have all the salt off - you don't want to kill your fish. Glue gun them to anything crafty, like you would for a seashell.
- Stones - Pretty stones can be used like shells or sea glass. On some beaches, sea stones have holes worn in them from wave action - you can use smaller rocks like these as beads. Also, stacking sea stones is a time honored hobby that promotes peace of mind. Leave your carefully stacked rocks up for others to enjoy. Eventually the sea will reclaim them.
- Driftwood - Besides using pretty sea wood for crafty purposes, you can also burn them for fuel in times of need, carve utensils from them, or create a sturdy windshelter. Many coasts along the Pacific Northwest abound with these interesting, and sometimes useful, man-made structures.
- Sand - Sand is useful in sandbags for building and shoring, in landscaping, can be added to a container to stabilize something tall (like an umbrella or tiki lamp), to scrub clean your dishes or clothes and for making zen gardens. Another popular hobby, similar to rock stacking, is making sand castles. These can get very elaborate! If you need to, you can also dig a hole in sand to get out of the wind: make sure your hole is dug high enough on the shore so it does not simply fill with water.
- Random Stuff - History is replete with people finding all kinds of things washed ashore, from garbage to gold. Keep your eyes open. Maybe bring along a metal detector. Learn where local shipwrecks lie. The entire world is connected through our oceans; you can expect to find anything eventually.
Note - Be careful any time you are along the coast. There are poisonous and deadly creatures that can sting or bite the unwary. You can get trapped by the tide or caught in a current. Use some common sense when foraging - and as always - be careful not to scavenge an area to the point where no one else can use what is out there. Take only what you need, so others can also have the joy of exploration. Bring a bag along to pick up any trash you find (especially plastic) which kill thousands of sea animals every year.
For More Information about Beachcombing and Eating Seaweed -
The New Seaweed Cookbook: A Complete Guide to Discovering the Deep Flavors of the Sea
Washed Up: The Curious Journeys of Flotsam and Jetsam