Whether it’s foraging for coastal weeds and hinterland seeds, buzzing about flow hive honey or costal tea tree vinegar, wild harvested ingredients are infusing fragrant gins with botanicals and craft beers frothing with medicinal elixirs worldwide. Artisan traditions meet modern nutrition as plant-based menus and sustainable table ideology takes charge.

The refreshing approach to healthy eating now extends to thought provoking restaurants steered by chefs who embrace the wild harvest nearby and mindfully minimise waste in the kitchen. Think carrot top pesto as it jostles in the cold larder next to local kelp oil, bonito butter and bunya cone syrup, for example.

Kelp, a plant that grows abundantly in the world’s oceans, could be the unsung hero in the fight against climate change. Kelp forests, which grow along a quarter of the world’s coastlines, have a significant impact on the health of water and fisheries, and are currently undervalued in their contribution to the global economy.

Recent research has found that kelp forests generate a staggering $756 billion for the global economy, a testament to the true value of this plant. In fact, a recent study published in Nature Portfolio analyzed six major varieties of kelp and found that they can generate up to $222,000 per hectare each year.

But the benefits of kelp don’t stop there. Kelp is a rich source of iodine, a nutrient that is essential for thyroid function, as well as other important vitamins and minerals. It is also a low-calorie and nutrient-dense food that can be incorporated into a healthy and balanced diet.

Kelp has the potential to be an exciting and innovative ingredient, with its unique umami flavor and versatility in the kitchen. It can be used to make delicious and healthy snacks, such as kelp chips or roasted kelp, or added to soups and stews for an extra depth of flavor.

Local Kelp at Byron Bay Cooking School

So let’s dive into the world of kelp and its potential as a climate change warrior. Kelp forests, found along a quarter of the world’s coastlines, could be the key to a healthier ocean and thriving fisheries. In fact, kelp forests have been estimated to contribute a whopping $756 billion to the global economy, and researchers have found that six major varieties of kelp generate up to $222,000 per hectare each year.

But what makes kelp so valuable? Firstly, its impact on water health is significant. Each hectare of kelp forest removes around $111,000 worth of nitrogen annually, which is crucial in preventing algal blooms that can lead to oxygen depletion and species loss. Secondly, kelp forests are a vital habitat for fish and invertebrates, with over 1,500 species observed in a recent study. The value of kelp’s role in supporting fisheries is estimated to be around $44,000 per hectare per year. Finally, kelp forests are also excellent carbon sinks, sequestering around 4.91 megatons of carbon annually.

In Australia alone, the fisheries production value of Ecklonia forests is worth $1.4 billion each year, highlighting the potential of kelp forests to contribute significantly to the economy. However, warming waters and overfishing pose a significant threat to kelp forests and the species that depend on them. The goal of the study is to help protect kelp forests by quantifying their value and encouraging investment in their restoration and preservation.

Fortunately, a number of startups are already cultivating kelp forests to increase carbon sequestration and harvest the crop for use in a range of products. With the potential of kelp forests to combat climate change and support thriving fisheries, it’s time we recognize the value of these underwater wonders and take action to protect them.

Overall, kelp has the potential to be a game-changer in the fight against climate change and a valuable addition to the world of nutrition and cuisine.



“While marine kelp forests have provided valuable ecosystem services for millennia, the global ecological and economic value of those services is largely unresolved. Kelp forests are diminishing in many regions worldwide, and efforts to manage these ecosystems are hindered without accurate estimates of the value of the services that kelp forests provide to human societies. Here, we present a global estimate of the ecological and economic potential of three key ecosystem services – fisheries production, nutrient cycling, and carbon removal provided by six major forest forming kelp genera (Ecklonia, Laminaria, Lessonia, Macrocystis, Nereocystis, and Saccharina).”
The value of ecosystem services in global marine kelp forests

Kelp and seaweed are both types of marine algae, but they are different in a few key ways.

Firstly, kelp is a type of brown algae, while seaweed can refer to many different types of algae, including brown, red, and green varieties.

In terms of culinary uses, kelp is often used in Asian cuisine, particularly in dishes like miso soup and seaweed salad. It has a slightly sweet, mild flavor and a firm, slightly chewy texture. Kelp is also a common ingredient in many plant-based meat substitutes due to its umami flavor and texture.

Seaweed, on the other hand, has a more varied range of culinary uses. Red seaweed, for example, is commonly used to make nori sheets for sushi, while green seaweed is often used in salads or as a garnish. Seaweed can have a range of flavors, from slightly sweet to salty or even bitter, and its texture can vary from soft and tender to crunchy and crisp.

In terms of nutrition, both kelp and seaweed are rich in vitamins and minerals, including iodine, iron, calcium, and vitamin K. However, kelp tends to be higher in iodine, while red seaweed is particularly high in protein and fibre.

Overall, while kelp and seaweed are both types of marine algae with many similarities, they have distinct differences in flavor, texture, and culinary uses.

How to use 

  • Soak for warm water for  3–4 minutes. Drain and reserve the soaking liquid for soup or stock, or drink as a medicinal tonic.
  • Adding a strip of seaweed to soups, stocks and slow cooks can boost the mineral content enormously. Cook down or discard before serving if preferred.
  • Add to baked vegetable and stir-fry dishes, or add to spreads such as dips or dressings to thicken and boost the mineral content.
  • Add snipped toasted nori to garnish soups, salads and stir fry.
  • Seaweed can be added to dressings, compound butter, spreads, soups, stews, salads, eggs, rice, noodles, and even desserts.
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Roasted kelp oil

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  • Author: Samantha Gowing
  • Total Time: 2 hours
  • Yield: About 200ml 1x
  • Diet: Vegan


Kombu comes from the Laminariaceae family. When baked it develops a rich salty, umami flavour with a hint of liquorice. Infusing with macadamia oil gives a nutty taste and slightly earthy aroma. Use on soups, salads, cooked meat and fish, steamed vegetables or drizzle over cheese and figs.


Units Scale

100 g dried kombu
200 ml macadamia oil


  1. Preheat oven to 160 C.
  2. Place kelp on baking tray, bake until crisp – about 1 hour.
  3. Break up kelp by hand and place in a blender.
  4. Add macadamia oil. Blitz until pureed.
  5. Allow to infuse for 1 hour.
  6. Strain through a sieve, pressing down to extract the oil.
  7. Refrigerate for up to 2 weeks.
  • Prep Time: 2 hours
  • Category: Plant-based
  • Cuisine: Kelp



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