There are over six hundred different sea vegetables or seaweeds growing on the coast of the British Isles. Most seaweed is edible but some taste a lot better than others. The general guidelines for foraging land-based plants applies to seaweeds. It is very important to forage for seaweed in clean coastal areas. Certainly don't take anything from around waste pipes which feed out into the sea! In addition, beaches may be owned by a council, a trust or even a private individual, so do ask for permission to forage if necessary.
Here are a few of the more popular species to try. For those who don't live near the coast, many British seaweeds can also be purchased (dried) by mail order.
Carragheen (Chondrus crispus) A red algae. Also known as Irish moss, chondrus and carrageen. Carragheen can be eaten raw. It is used commercially as a thickener and stabiliser. It is an excellent alternative to gelatin (boiled bones, skins and tendons of animals) and has similar properties. It can be soaked and gently heated until soft and gooey. Sieve or blend in a high quality blender to obtain a really smooth consistency. It will thicken soups, ice cream, smoothies and cheesecakes. It can be added to raw breads instead of psyllium to improve the texture. False Irish moss (Mastocarpus stellatus) is closely related to Chondrus crispus and is also sold as carragheen or Irish moss. It can be used in a similar way.
Dabberlocks (Alaria esculenta) A large brown algae. Also known as badderlocks, Irish or Atlantic wakame, winged kelp or murlin. It is one of several species of Alaria around the British Isles. Dabberlocks can be eaten raw. It can be used in soups or fresh in salads. It can also be dried. Dried dabberlocks can be re-hydrated by soaking in warm water until soft.
Dulse (Palmaria palmata) A red algae. Also known as dillisk, dilsk or sea lettuce flakes. Dulse can be eaten raw. Dry it and use as a crispy snack. Dried or fresh it can be added to salads. Ground down into a powder dulse used as a flavour enhancer in soups and other savoury dishes. Dried dulse can be re-hydrated by soaking briefly in warm water until soft.
|Dulse (P. palmata)|
Sea Lettuce (Ulva lactuca) A green algae. Colour wise this is very green and looks more like a lettuce. It is very good raw and can have a slightly bitter taste if cooked. These are the salad greens of the seaweeds. Chop up the fresh or dried leaves and add to salads. It can also be added to smoothies.
Sea spaghetti (Himanthalia elongata) A brown algae. Also known as sea tangle, riseach, sea thong, thongweed or buttonweed. This seaweed looks much like a dark green tagliatelle and has a mild flavour. It can be eaten raw or dried for later use. Use instead of wheat pasta with a tomato sauce or add to salads. Dried sea spaghetti can be re-hydrated by soaking in warm water until soft.
Sugar Kelp (Laminaria saccharina) A brown algae. Also known as sweet tangle, sugar wrack, sweet kelp or kombu royale. The Laminaria species are commonly known as kombu. Sugar kelp can be eaten raw. It can be dried and used as a crispy snack. Use in salads or instead of pasta with a raw tomato sauce. Alternatively, it can be pickled or used to make vegan sushi. It has a sweetish flavour hence the name. Dried sugar kelp can be re-hydrated by soaking in warm water until soft.
This is an excerpt from Raw Edible Wild Plants available for £2.50 on Amazon Kindle (see link/advert on the top left of this page).