It's true: You can use sea lettuce

By John Cousins

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The health-giving qualities of sea lettuce have been highlighted by Tauranga Harbour Watch in a new publication aimed at encouraging people to use it on their gardens and even eat it.

The environmental organisation is trying to raise awareness of the benefits of the naturally occurring algae which usually ends up as a smelly washed-up mess along the city's harbour margins.

Harbour Watch successfully applied to the Bay of Plenty Regional Council's environmental enhancement fund for the $4000 needed to publish the succinct eight-page pamphlet.

The driving force behind the project was Harbour Watch secretary Naera Imrie. She said the philosophy behind the pamphlet was simple: "We wanted to do something about the sea lettuce. We don't like sea lettuce, but there is a positive spin-off."

Although there was still a lot of debate among experts about the causes of sea lettuce blooms, Harbour Watch's focus was to get more people to come down to the foreshore and take it home while it was still fresh and green.

Mrs Imrie said newly washed up sea lettuce was nutritious and edible. The pamphlet highlighted how early Maori used sea lettuce in cooking and how it was still eaten today in salads and stews throughout the world.

Its composition was 40-45 per cent carbohydrates, 18-24 per cent protein, 2-3 per cent magnesium, 1-2 per cent sodium, 1-2 per cent fat and up to 1 per cent potassium.

However, changing eating habits was always going to be difficult and Harbour Watch's main aim was to convince more people to use sea lettuce in their gardens. The pamphlet sets out how to turn sea lettuce into a fertiliser and how to compost the algae.

The pamphlet will be available from the Environment Centre in 17th Avenue, some garden centres, council offices and garden clubs.

The launch coincides with the University of Waikato's coastal economic symposium tomorrow at the Bongard Centre from 9am to 3pm.

Called Treasuring the Bay, the public symposium brings together renown coastal and marine scientists.

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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