K is for Kelp

Written by Kerry E.B. Black

Native to the North Atlantic Ocean and parts of the Northern Pacific, kelp grows perennially, mostly in deep waters and rapid tideways. It is light yellow to brownish-green in color and stands from two to three feet in height. The plant attaches itself to aquatic rocks by root-like, discoid extremities emitting from the plant’s stalk. It begins narrow at the base and fans out with a flat, leaf-like form. Other names for the Fucus Vesiculosus are kelp, seawrack, black-tang, bladder focus, cutweed, tangles, and and sea weed.

The health and beauty industry uses kelp. Spas offer seaweed wraps. Cosmetics companies add kelp ash to soap and glass. Pharmaceutical companies add kelp to some vitamin and mineral supplements, as it is reportedly a good source of folic acid and iodine. Alginate, a kelp-derived carbohydrate, thickens toothpaste as well as ice cream, jelly, and salad dressing.

Kelp has been used in the treatment of goiter and scrofulous swellings, and it is a part of the cuisine of Japan, Alaska, and Hawaii. The Alaska Energy Desk released a news story about the growing industry of faming kelp for culinary use, describing the process of creating kelp salsa for sale. In Walter Farley’s “The Black Stallion,” shipwrecked Alec dries and eats kelp.

“Percy Jackson” of Rick Riordan’s young adult series is frequently called “seaweed brain.” Elle Strauss published “Seaweed” in 2012, and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow devoted a poem to the plant. In “After the Burial” by James Russell Lowell, a seaman wonders, “…but, after the shipwreck, tell me what help is its iron thew, still true to the broken hawser, deep down among seaweed and ooze?”

Impulsive and bad-butt Captain Holly Kelp is the first female Lep Recon Officer in the “Artemis Fowl Series by Eoin Colfer. Dr. Octavia Kade not only studies sea plants, but she also published a post-apocalypse short story called “Kelp” in the August, 2016 issue of “Takahe.”