I’ve lived near the coast all my life, but it took me until recently to start eating seaweed. I was aware that seaweed was edible but I was never quite sure which species to eat or even what areas on the beach were best for foraging. So when the opportunity arose to attend a one day “Seaweed Foraging” course at the National Biodiversity Data Centre in Waterford, I booked myself in.
Marie Power who has published “The Sea Garden, a guide to Seaweed Cookery and Foraging”, led the course at the Data Centre. The morning got off to a good start, as Marie has relatively recently started making and selling seaweed bars. These were delicious, and offer a healthy protein source, especially when compared to some of the other protein bars currently on the market.
Marie spent the first hour discussing the rocky sea shore and how various seaweeds, plants and animals adapt to different areas along the shore. She then introduced us to some of her favourite seaweeds and provided us with some information about their health benefits, and their uses historically in Ireland and in other countries today. Marie also made reference to some of the ways she enjoys introducing seaweeds in her diet including wraps for hummus and adding it to soups, stir-fries and omelettes.
After lunch, we headed to Garrus beach near Tramore. The beach has a good selection of rock pools with plenty of seaweed, so it made for a good choice. Marie is a sustainable forager, and is a great advocate for the practice. That means she recommends only taking part of the seaweed plant, about half or less, and to always leave the holdfast attached to the rock. This allows the seaweed to grow back. Marie also said to only take seaweeds during their respective growing seasoons, which she has listed in her book.
The nice thing about seaweeds is that none of the ones found along the Irish coast are poisonous, and won’t do you any harm to eat. Some, however, are more palatable than others, and many have high levels of iodine, so don’t over do it! I have listed below a small selection of some of the common seaweeds we came across on Garrus. Far more detailed and knowledgeable information can be found elsewhere such as http://www.irishseaweeds.com/, and http://www.seaweed.ie/.
1. Carrageen Moss (Chondrus crispus)
This purple red seaweed is one of the most popular seaweeds on the market. This seaweed grows to about 15 cm and tends to grow in clusters with a slightly bushy appearance. It is typically used to make jelly. Historically, this seaweed was used as a cough and cold remedy.
2. Dilisk (Palmaria palmata)
Dilisk is another red seaweed that can grow up to 30 cm. The seaweed is recognised by its long finger like fronds, as can be seen in the photo. I brought some of this home with me, rinsed it and added it an omlette the next morning and it was lovely.
3. Pepper Dilisk (Osmundea pinnatifida)
Pepper dilisk is also a red seaweed that grows to about 10 cm. This is a strong flavoured seaweed and reminded me a bit of rocket, with a distinctive peppery taste. I think it would be lovely in salads. Marie reccomends consuming this seaweed in moderation, and is a good seaweed to dry and ground and add as seasoning to savoury dishes.
4. Sweet Kelp (Saccharina latissima)
This seaweed is quite easily recognised due to its single long frond, and its frilly appeareance. Marie told us how this is quite a sweet seaweed and makes for a good additive to cakes and other sweet things. She suggested drying it overnight and then baking it in a cool oven, about 80 degrees, for 10 minutes. After that, you can make crisps or ground the seaweed into a powder. I tried making the crisps, but think I should have spent a bit more time rinsing this one as it was very salty.
5. Sea lettuce (Ulva lactuca)
Sea lettuce can be added to soups and salads, but it thrives in nutrient rich areas, so choose your foraging areas carefully.
6. Bladderwrack (Fucus Vesiculosus)
Fancy creating your own seaweed spa for free? Simply collect a few pieces of bladderwrack and add it to your bath.