Saturday, 4 December 2010

FORAGING FOOD: Edible Seaweeds

There are roughly between 20-40 good edible seaweeds native to UK coastal waters. Here are some of them. You should always resist the temptation to eat any of it raw, straight from the sea, no matter how clean the water.
Thong Weed or Sea Spaghetti:
Himanthalia elongata is a brown algae and can be found on exposed shores just above the kelp zone. The fronds are small and button-shaped. More distinctive are the long strap-like reproductive bodies that grow from the centre of each ‘button’. This seaweed only lives for two or three years. It dies as soon as it has released its gametes. Thong Weed can be eaten like spaghetti. Boil for 10/15 mins and add to pasta or chop up and put into a salad. Turns bright green if you cook it. Also good eaten raw.
Egg Wrack:
Ascophyllum nodosum is a large, common brown alga. The fronds are an olive-brown. It is a seaweed of the northern Atlantic Ocean, also known as Norwegian kelp, knotted Kelp, or knotted wrack. It is common on the north-western coast of Europe (from Svalbard to Portugal) including east Greenland and the north-eastern coast of North America. It has long fronds with large egg-shaped air-bladders. The fronds can reach 2 m in length. When ripe they are yellow, and as the tide goes out they can form huge piles of seaweed. It lives up to 15 years and is a dominant species of the middle shore. boil for 10 minuets till soft , garnish or add to stews.
Fucus vesiculosis is a large brown alga. Usually about 40cm in length, it grows in a wide variety of places from exposed rocky shores to river inlets, mostly common on sheltered rocky areas. This seaweed is on the coasts of the North Sea, the western Baltic Sea, and the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Though technically a brown alga it can vary in colour from olive green through reddish brown to almost black. It is characterized by the small gas–filled vesicles which are in pairs, one on either side of a central midrib running along the centre of the strap-like frond. It is a thyroid stimulant, and might counter obesity by increasing the metabolic rate. Stored dried it makes a very nutritious tea as well as being used in soups. Powered down it makes a great stock for stews.
Brown Leafweed, False Kelp or Petal Weed:
Petalonia fascia is a small brown alga, typically brown in colour but which can also be olive green. Usually it is seen between late autumn and early summer. The alga has a small discoid attachment base, from which emerge fronds some 20cm long and 4 to 6cm wide that are flattened. Brown Leafweed is high in sugar and starch and has an agreeable flavour which means it can be used cooked or raw. It can be dried and re-constituted. Being common in winter months it used to be collected extensively by tidal communities during the 'hungry gap' that marks the end of winter, just before the beginning of spring.
Carragheen or Irish Moss:
Chondrus crispus is a red alga, It grows along the rocky parts of the Atlantic coast of Europe and North America. Varying in colour from a greenish-yellow to a dark purple or purplish-brown. When sun-dried it has a yellowish translucent consistency. The plant inhabits the lower shore. It can grow up to 15cm long. When softened in water it smells of the sea, and it will form a jelly when boiled. Irish moss is a major source of carrageenan, which is commonly used as a thickener and stabilizer in processed foods. Carragheen is an important setting agent and was used in ancient times.
Alaria esculenta also known as dabberlocks or badderlocks, or winged kelp. It is a traditional food along the coasts of the far north Atlantic Ocean. It may be eaten fresh or cooked. It grows to a maximum length of 2 m. The whole frond is brown and consists of a distinct midrib. It is a common large algae on shores. Dried, the kelp can be used later in stews, bean dishes and soups. A high-nutrient kelp. During difficult winters in Iceland, dabberlocks is used in bread and thick soups to provide nutrition.
Palmaria palmata is a red alga. It grows on the northern coasts of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. It is a well-known snack food, and in Iceland, where it is known as söl, it has been an important source of fiber throughout the centuries. Dulse vary in colour from deep-rose to reddish-purple and are rather leathery in texture. Ranging in sizes up to 50cm long. Dulse can be found growing the area between the high tide and low tide to depths of 20m. Dulse is a good source of minerals and vitamins compared with other vegetables, contains all trace elements needed by humans, and has a high protein content. It is commonly found from June to September. Fresh dulse can be eaten directly off the rocks before sun-drying. Sun-dried dulse is eaten as is or is ground to flakes or a powder. In Iceland the tradition is to eat it with butter. It can also be pan fried quickly into chips, baked in the oven covered with cheese, with salsa, or simply microwaved briefly. It can also be used in soups, chowders, sandwiches and salads, or added to bread/pizza dough. Finely diced, it can also be used as a flavour enhancer in meat dishes.
Enteromorpha intestinalis is a long, green and tubular alga. Also known as grass kelp. The tubes are flattened and crinkled. This bright green seaweed is very abundant where freshwater is present on the shore, and is a good indicator of fresh water. It grows profusely in north-western Europe. It can be found usually in shallow pools of the upper shore. Typically they are 20 to 40cm long. Most abundant in June and July. When dried and deep fried they are edible and are the origin of the 'crispy seaweed' used as topping on many Chinese dishes. Young specimens can be washed and used raw in salads or they can be lightly boiled or steamed and used like a green vegetable.
Porphyra sp. brownish in colour, has a high mineral salt content. particularly iodine and iron. Laver is common around the west coast of Britain and east coast of Ireland along the Irish Sea. Laver is unique among seaweeds because it is only one cell thick. It is used for making laverbread, a traditional Welsh dish, plus it can also be substituted for spinach. It has been harvested in the British Isles for centuries and is most closely associated with South Wales and the town of Glamorgan. Lovely roasted with sesame oil and salt. boiled it turns to a dark green pulp. The high iodine content gives the seaweed a distinctive flavour in common with olives and oysters. Laver provides vitamins A, B, C, E, K, thiamin and pantothenic acid. It also contains the minerals phosphorus, potassium, iron, iodine, copper, manganese and zinc. It is low-calorie, at about 10 calories per ounce, contains no sugar or cholesterol, and is about 7% protein.
Oarweed or Tangle:
Laminaria digitata is a brown alga which can grow up to four metres long. It has been used by people for hundreds of years as food, medicine and even bandages. It has a stipe that is oval in cross-section and which is very flexible and does not snap easily when bent. Oarweed can be shredded and pickled as a condiment. It also dries well for later use. High in glutamic acid, tangle tastes of peanuts. It is also one of the best species of seawed for making flour. The seaweed becomes translucent, tender and very tasty after extended boiling.
Pepper Dulse:
Osmundea pinnatifida is a small red alga. It grows grows on exposed to moderately sheltered rocky shores and is common on the middle and lower rocky shores, often covering large areas with a greenish-yellow turf . It is red in colour and typically up to 8cm in length which is tough. Sometimes dwarfed and yellow-green in colour. Pepper Dulse is highly aromatic. When shredded, add to flavour stir-fires, to give a peppery taste. Traditional soups and broths of the Highlands in Scotland use it as a substitute to pepper.
Sea Lettuce:
Ulva lactuca is widely distributed over rocky shores. It is also found on mud-flats attached to stones and shells. They are able to survive as a floating mass. In Wales the plant is sometimes used to make ‘larver bread’ in place of the red seaweed, purple larver. It is, therefore, sometimes referred to as green larver. Many species of sea lettuce are a food source for humans in Scandinavia, Great Britain, Ireland, China, and Japan (where this food is known as aosa). Sea lettuce is great raw in salads and cooked in soups. It is high in protein, soluble dietary fiber, and a variety of vitamins and minerals, especially iron.
Serrated Wrack or Toothed Wrack:
Fucus serratus is flat, olive brown to golden brown algae with serrated edges. It grows about 150cm long. Recognised by the strap-like branching fronds with jagged serrated edges. The frond, a divided leaf, can grow to be 2cm wide. Serrated wrack is found on hard substances near the bottom of the ocean. Serrated wracks can be found in dense populations about 45 feet down or in banks or low waters around a depth of 4 feet. Most common, however, it is found on sheltered rocky substrata'wrack' seaweed. This seaweed is not commonly used as a food, however, its edible properties are very similar to that of bladderwrack. Stored dried it makes a very nutritious tea as well as being used in soups. Powered down it makes a great stock for stews.
Sugar Kelp:
Saccharina latissima is a brown alga and can be found amongst oarweed (Laminaria digitata) on sheltered shores. The plant often lies flat and horizontal. Also known as Sea Belt, Poor Man's Weather Glass, it is sometimes covered in a whitish powder. This powder is sweet to taste, and where it gets its name. Seasonal growth results in alternate rings of light and brown tissue being laid down during periods of fast and slow growth. These rings can be used to age the plant. The seaweed lives for about three years. The sugar kelp is sometimes referred to as ‘poor man’s weather glass’ because in the past it was hung up to forecast the approaching weather. Brittle fronds meant that the weather would be dry. Soft, limp fronds meant rain was approaching. Sugar Kelp can be shredded and pickled. It also dries well for later use. Like all edible kelps, it is high in glutamic acid, which contributes to the flavour and aids with the mouth feel of foods making them more appetizing. This species can also be peled, shredded and eaten raw as a salad vegetable.
Japweed or Wireweed:
Sargassum muticum is a seaweed originating in Japan but has become well established on the coasts of Europe and North America. It is regarded as a pest by mariners, fouling boat propellers and fishing nets and disturbing the natural balance of the indigenous marine flora and fauna. It was accidentally introduced to western North America and Europe, and is steadily extending its range in these areas. It out competes other seaweeds and in these regions is regarded as an invasive species. But saying that, its here, so lets take full advantage of it as a food source. This long, bushy seaweed has numerous side-branches, which have many leaf like fronds up to 10 cm long. The fronds bear small, gas-filled bladders, either singly or in clusters.

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