Category: Seaweed

Seaweed

An Introduction to Seaweed

When I ask a group of guests on a seashore foraging course “who has eaten seaweed before?” it’s usually about half that put their hands up. I ask if it was crispy seaweed and for most it was. However, on most occasions, it’s not seaweed that they were actually given but deep-fried spring greens – a type of cabbage! Those that have really eaten seaweed have usually done so in either Japanese restaurants or in the Welsh dish Laverbread. Almost everyone will have however eaten seaweed regularly as extracts from it are used in a wide variety of food products. For example, it keeps ice cream smooth and creamy, is used in beers for a more stable and lasting foam and in wines to help clarify the colour. As a thickener or stabilizer, it appears in sauces, syrups, and soups, mayonnaise, salad dressings and yoghurt.

Seaweeds are most popular in East Asian cuisine (Japanese, Chinese & Korean). Nearer to home, there is a long history of using some species in Ireland and Wales. Seaweeds are rich in minerals especially iodine, proteins and vitamins. One has 10 times the calcium of cow’s milk, twice the vitamin C of oranges, and 50 times the iron of spinach!

Foraging for Seaweed

Gathering seaweed
Gathering seaweed

Seaweeds are probably the least foraged wild food group, however, there is lots of good news for the forager:

  • Of the 500 or so species in British waters about a dozen are eaten, so learning them is a lot easier than plants or fungi.
  • There is only one poisonous species, but you won’t encounter it being only found in very deep waters, like midway across The English Channel.
  • If you like East Asian cuisine, we have many of the same or equivalent species on our coast.
  • Seaweeds can be preserved for future use.
Species of edible seaweed
Some of the species of edible seaweed

The coast is perhaps the most dangerous foraging environment with more ways to come a cropper than other environments. I won’t go into detail here, but among the dangers are being cut off by the tide, hit by a landslide, slipping on rocks and getting stuck in mud. Take care!

The best time to gather seaweed is as the tide is falling and the best months are May and June. You should look in areas away from sources of pollution such as sewage outfalls and where rivers come to the coast. So your seaweed gathering has minimal impact, you should always cut it with scissors and not tear it off the rocks. Do not cut too near the holdfast (“root”), leaving a third of the length and it will happily grow back. You should generally, only gather seaweed that is still attached so it has not deteriorated. As with all types of foraging, take a little here and a little there.

At the coast, rinse it in seawater to remove any sand, shells or creatures. The easiest way is to put a handful into a bucket / large bowl of water, give it a good swirl then put into a colander to drain. If it is sandy, give it multiple washes. Once cut and washed, put it in string bags (e.g onion sacks) to let the water drain. I strongly recommend that you put each species in a separate bag so you don’t need to spend hours at home sorting them out! If you’re collecting on a warm day, use a cool box to keep the seaweed chilled until you get home. If it becomes too hot it will start to break down and get mucilaginous and slimy.

The Law

The usual law that applies to foragers, The 1968 Theft Act, covers fruit, fungi, foliage and flowers but not seaweed. You should be okay collecting it for personal use but technically you need permission from the owner of the foreshore (Council, National Trust or private landowner). Below the High Water Mark, the landowner is usually The Crown. John Wright’s Edible Seashore book includes excellent coverage of the legal aspects of seashore foraging.

Seaweed in The Kitchen

The key thing for cooking with seaweed is that you need to appropriately use each species. It’s not just a case of boiling any of them as you would a vegetable, each has its own role in the kitchen. They are more versatile than you would think, besides being used in soups, starters and main courses, they can be used in puddings, breads, cakes and drinks. On our “Seaweed and Eat It” day long foraging course, learning about their roles is our focus. There are, however, simple ways that you can easily add seaweed to your regular diet and enjoy the health and taste benefits.

Dried seaweed flakes, here Gutweed.
Dried seaweed flakes, here Gutweed.

It is easy to produce a jar of dried seaweed flakes. This is one or more of Dulse, Sea Lettuce, Laver (Nori), Bladderwrack, Gutweed and, optionally, a little Pepper Dulse. These seaweeds are washed thoroughly and then have been dried (below) and ground / flaked (below). The result is stored in a glass jar where it will keep for a long time (though once you get the flavour you will use it regularly!). You can:

  • Sprinkle on cooked vegetables, salads, eggs, noodles, pizza or pasta dishes, popcorn, soups and sauces.
  • Put in a salt shaker with sea salt and using as a condiment.
  • Add when making bread / savoury scones etc.
  • Mix into soft butter for Seaweed butter, optionally adding lemon or lime juice, chilli flakes etc. Serve on bread or with fish, vegetables, noodles or pasta. This can be frozen.
Seaweed Soda Bread
Seaweed Soda Bread

 

Seaweed Butter
Seaweed Butter

 

Savoury Scones
Savoury Scones

Drying Seaweed

Your technique will depend upon how much time you have, the size of the seaweed and the weather. Natural drying in sunlight and fresh air is the traditional approach but if it is too windy or wet you may have to rethink – garage, conservatory or greenhouse (ideally not the house – you will get complaints!). If drying flat, turn them occasionally. Whatever your approach, they want them to be totally dry but still pliable. Dried seaweed can then be stored for years in sealed plastic bags or glass jars in a cool, dry place away from direct light. Some are used dried; others are rehydrated before using.

Options:

  • Sunny windowsill
  • Cake cooling racks
  • Clothes drying rack
  • Dehydrator – 40 degrees C so the nutrients are not damaged. You can use this for drying mushrooms, fruit and veg too. C. £40
  • Mushroom trays
  • Sheets / tarpaulin
  • A very low oven (40 degrees C) overnight.
  • The washing line / a rotary drier / a sock drier
Drying Gutweed (in the green house - a bit windy for outside!
Drying Gutweed in the green house – a bit windy for outside!

Flaking Seaweed

To flake the seaweed, you may need to crisp the dried seaweed removing all moisture by either:

  • Putting on a tray or ovenproof fish in a hot oven. Check it every minute or so to see if it can be crumbled; put back if not. The time required will vary with the thickness of the seaweed and how thinly you have spread it.
  • Placing in a grill pan with a piece of greaseproof paper over the seaweed to stop burning. Put well away from the heat, turning the seaweed occasionally checking if it is crisp.

When it is crisp you can crush it, your method based on whether you want flakes or powder:

  • Pestle and mortar
  • Freezer bag / rolling pin
  • Rub between the fingers (carefully as some seaweeds may have sharp edges)
  • Food processor / Coffee (Spice) grinder (shorter time for flakes, longer for powder)

Learn More

Join us on our “Seaweed and Eat It” day long foraging course. You will find most of the edible species, understand harvesting and preserving them as well as working together to prepare, cook and eat a three-course meal with seaweed in every course. Afterwards we will email you lots of information including the recipes.

There are a good number of books on seaweed foraging and cookery with some wonderful recipes. You can browse and order some of our favourites here.

 

 

Seashore Foraging Walk 29/04/17

Thanks to all the lovely folk that joined us on our seashore foraging walk on the spectacular Jurassic Coast in Dorset last Saturday. The sun shone and we found a good range of seashore plants, seaweed and had good luck on the crustacean front. We are back again on 27th May (fully booked), for Coastal Plants on 15th July and seashore again on 23rd September. Thanks to those that sent in some of their photos.

The fiery Black Mustard - horseradish meets wasabi!
The fiery Black Mustard – horseradish meets wasabi!

 

Sea Beet - my favourite wide vegetable. Makes great soup amongst other things.
Sea Beet – my favourite wide vegetable. Makes great soup amongst other things.

 

Seaweed selection - some of the 10 edible species we found.
Seaweed selection – some of the 10 edible species we found.

 

Definitely something in this one
Definitely something in this pot

 

I'm staying here!
I’m staying here!
Lrts get another pair of hands
Lets get another pair of hands

 

Edible (Brown) Crab. Undersize (just) so back it went.
Edible (Brown) Crab. Undersize (just) so back it went.

 

Flounder (slightly surprised no other temporary residents of the pot hadn't eaten it!)
Flounder (slightly surprised no other temporary residents of the pot hadn’t eaten it!)

 

Feisty Velvet Swimming Crab grabs my finger.
Feisty Velvet Swimming Crab grabs my finger.

 

So glad I had thick gloves on!
So glad I had thick gloves on!

 

There's something interesting in this one.
There’s something interesting in this one.
A beautiful, but undersize Lobster, so back it went.
A beautiful, but undersize Lobster, so back it went.

Seaweed

Seaweed was on the television last night as part of “Back to the Land with Kate Humble“. This series champions the UK’s most inspirational rural entrepreneurs. In last night’s episode she met a seaweed collector who left an office job in Swindon for a life working on the beach and is now running a successful business selling Welsh seaweed products to a global market.

The company is called The Pembrokeshire Beach Food Company and Jonathan gathers a range of seaweeds on the Pembrokeshire coast continuing a tradition of hundreds of years. There is reproduction of a seaweed drying hut nearby, there were many in this area once . The company uses seaweed in:

* takeaway food sold at his beach café (street food outlet) and many outdoor festivals (e.g. Laver relish on burgers / gingercake with Laver etc.)

Amazing Gingerbread - dried laver flakes being a special ingredient.
Amazing Gingercake – dried laver flakes being a special ingredient.

* in products – dried flakes, seaweed salts, butter, “kelchup” (yes Kelp Ketchup!) and more – sold globally including to the Japanese (“coals to Newcastle” eat you heart out!)

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I visited the café on holiday a few years ago and the Gingerbread was stunning. I did email Jonathan for the recipe, he replied:

That is a top secret recipe, but to help guide you we use extra ginger (i.e. ginger powder and fresh ginger), Welsh Stout and Welshman’s Caviar (his dried Laver product name – apparently a phrase coined by the Welsh actor Richard Burton).

You can watch the episode (if you are in the UK) here – forward to 21:12 (to 28:26).

My only criticism is I disagree with pulling seaweed directly off the rocks, I recommend cutting it.

Seaweed foraging course group

Seaweed and Eat It! 5th June 2016

We were really lucky to have the sun and glorious blue skies without even a breath of wind for our seaweed foraging course “Seaweed and Eat It!” on the spectacular Dorset coast on Sunday. The first part of the day was spent on the shore taking advantage of the really low tide to find a good range of edible species. As well as learning about each and how to use it in the kitchen we talked about other issues such as sustainable harvesting.

A sea garden - so many colours, shapes and textures (and tastes!)
A sea garden – so many colours, shapes and textures (and tastes!)

 

Gathering Sea Grass / Gutweed
Gathering Sea Grass / Gutweed

At our indoor venue we split into groups with each preparing part of lunch:

 

The results of the morning seaweed forage
The results of the morning seaweed forage – left to right – back row Kelp, Sea Beet. Middle row – Sea Spaghetti, Sea Lettuce, Gutweed. Front row – Pepper Dulse, Spiral Wrack, Laver

 

Wild Miso Soup
Miso soup made from Dashi stock with Kelp. Wild ingredients – Ceps, Pepper Dulse, Sea Beet, Wild Garlic & Sea Lettuce

 

Sea (and "land"!) Spaghetti in tomato sauce (includes Spiral Wrack). Served with a mixed, dried seaweed condiment.
Sea (and “land”!) Spaghetti in tomato sauce (includes Spiral Wrack). Served with a mixed, dried seaweed condiment.

The Sea Spaghetti was declared “a revelation”.

Elderflower Panna Cotta - made with Carrageen seaweed.
Elderflower Panna Cotta – made with Carrageen seaweed. Fresh Elderflowers infused in the milk – AMAZING flavour.

Everyone had a great time, with lots of very positive feedback – words like lovely, delicious, fascinating, recommend, very enjoyable, excellent, great, informative and confident.

Thanks to those that joined us for making it a memorable day.

Seashore foraging with Dorset Tea

A few weeks ago we ran a seashore foraging event for our friends at Dorset Tea. They invited some leading bloggers to Dorset for a few days to help launch their new fruit & herbal infusions range. We had been involved in helping create this range taking Dorset Tea staff for a day of summer foraging to help inspire them.

Dorset Tea fruit and herbal infusions. Picture courtesy of Coralie - www.teatimeinwonderland.co.uk
Dorset Tea fruit and herbal infusions. Photo courtesy of Coralie – www.teatimeinwonderland.co.uk

On route to the beach we found plants of interest – lovely Elderflower with it’s myriad of uses and the deadly poisonous Hemlock Water-Dropwort. At the rocky headland we discovered a good number of species of edible seaweed. In this country little attention is paid to them but they are very popular in East Asian cuisine (Japanese, Chinese & Korean). We are fortunate in having many  of the same or equivalent species on our coast. There is also a long history of using some species in Ireland and Wales. The key to cooking seaweeds is appropriate treatment for each species.

Showing the bloggers some of the species of seaweed that can be used in the kitchen. Photo courtesy of The West Dorset Foodie (http://www.westdorsetfoodie.co.uk)
Showing the bloggers some of the species of seaweed that can be used in the kitchen. Photo courtesy of The West Dorset Foodie – http://www.dorsetfoodiefamily.co.uk/.

 

Dulse
Dulse – an edible seaweed – popular in Ireland. Photo courtesy of Coralie – www.teatimeinwonderland.co.uk

 

25-carageen
Carageen – gives a setting agent – a vegetarian version of gelatine. Photo courtesy of Coralie – www.teatimeinwonderland.co.uk

 

20-sugar-kelp
Sugar Kelp – used for crisps, dashi stock (for miso soup etc) and in cakes & biscuits! Photo courtesy of Coralie – www.teatimeinwonderland.co.uk

I had put a crab / lobster put out a day or two before. You never know what will be in it when you retrieve it. I was delighted that it contained…

Lobster
A Lobster – Photo courtesy of Coralie – www.teatimeinwonderland.co.uk

 

A Velvet Swimming Crab - Photo courtesy of Coralie - www.teatimeinwonderland.co.uk
A Velvet Swimming Crab – Photo courtesy of Coralie – www.teatimeinwonderland.co.uk

 

one and half Prawns - Photo courtesy of Coralie - www.teatimeinwonderland.co.uk
one and half Prawns (blame the Lobster) – Photo courtesy of Coralie – www.teatimeinwonderland.co.uk

 

and a Three-Bearded Rock Ling (cod family). Photo courtesy of Coralie - www.teatimeinwonderland.co.uk
and a Three-Bearded Rock Ling (cod family). Photo courtesy of Coralie – www.teatimeinwonderland.co.uk

We headed for our start via some seashore plants including this magnificent Sea Kale. This was once a very popular Victorian vegetable, grown in gardens with young shoots forced in earthenware “chimneys” like rhubarb.

Sea Kale
Sea Kale. Photo courtesy of The West Dorset Foodie – http://www.dorsetfoodiefamily.co.uk/

The session ended with a picnic Hedgerow Harvest had prepared based on foraged wild foods. This contained 13 foraged wild foods and featured :

  • Wild cordials and Elderflower Champagne
  • Miso soup – including dashi stock (Sugar Kelp), Ceps, Wild Garlic and Sea Lettuce
  • Frittata – including home-smoked mackerel, Sea Beet and Wild Garlic,
  • Sides – Sea Spaghetti and Carrot salad, Sea Lettuce
  • Elderflower Panna Cotta – using Carrageen seaweed and Elderflower
Elderflower Champagne
Elderflower Champagne. Photo courtesy of Coralie – www.teatimeinwonderland.co.uk

 

Miso Soup - with lots of wild ingredients.
Miso Soup – with lots of wild ingredients. Photo courtesy of Coralie – www.teatimeinwonderland.co.uk

 

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Frittata – including home-smoked mackerel, Sea Beet and Wild Garlic, with side dishes of Sea Spaghetti and Carrot salad and Sea Lettuce. Photo courtesy of Coralie – www.teatimeinwonderland.co.uk

 

Elderflower Panna Cotta - using Carrageen seaweed and Elderflower.
Elderflower Panna Cotta – using Carrageen seaweed and Elderflower. Photo courtesy of Coralie – www.teatimeinwonderland.co.uk

You can read the bloggers write ups of their trip to Dorset including lots more photos at:

West Dorset Foodie

Tea Time in Wonderland (foraging is part of the way through the article)

The Girl Outdoors (foraging is part of the way through the article)

There are also photos scattered over twitter and other social media including

Dorset Tea – Seashore forage Dorset (Pinterest).

If you would like to join us on a seashore foraging course or would like your own bespoke foraging event please contact us.

 

 

Seaweed Foraging Walk – 17th May 2015

Thanks to the folk that came on our Seaweed foraging walk over the weekend. The sun shone and the sea was calm and they had a great time. The session included:

  • identifying about a dozen edible species
  • learning about the law and how to harvest seaweed sustainably
  • gathering some to take home
  • learning what can be done with seaweeds in the kitchen
  • how to preserve them
An abundance of seaweed
An abundance of seaweed

 

Gathering seaweed
Gathering seaweed

 

Species of edible seaweed
Species of edible seaweed

 

Sugar Kelp - also known as Sea Belt, Poor Man's Weatherglass or Kombu Royale
Sugar Kelp – also known as Sea Belt, Poor Man’s Weatherglass or Kombu Royale

The walk ended with trying a selection of dishes with seaweed in:

  • Sugar kelp crisps
  • Miso Soup
  • Dulse Cheese Scones
  • Elderflower Pannacotta
Sugar Kelp Crisps
Sugar Kelp Crisps

 

Dulse Cheese Scones
Dulse Cheese Scones
The dulse cheese scones were particularly good (if I might say so myself). The recipe is taken from the fantastic Irish Seaweed Kitchen Cookbook by Prannie Rhatigan and can be found on her web site at http://irishseaweedkitchen.ie/seaweed-recipes/duileasc-dulse-cheese-scones/

 

Among the feedback on the seaweed walk received from attendees:
Thanks James for the seaweed foraging experience today, enjoyed every minute, great place on a sunny day with a great group of people, some serious seaweed drying going down tomorrow, in fact bit of a seaweed fest tomorrow, going for the sea lettuce, pepper dulse with scrambled eggs and smoked salmon for a decadent brekkie, crispy seaweed for lunch some seaweed crisps to snack on in between and you must give me that miso soup recipe we tried today, thanks again!

Thank you for a very informative and fun morning last Sunday.  I thoroughly enjoyed it and the food you gave us was delicious and inspiring.