August 12, 2013

Coastal foraging courses. Staithes, Summer 2013.


The weather has been very kind to us at Staithes this year and we have enjoyed great fishing, great foraging and the company of some lovely people.  As ever the British coastline offered us a wide array of forageable foods that inspired new recipes and dinner dishes.

The quantity and quality of the seaweed on the North East coast has been particularly good this year and It always amazes me that this incredible resource is so underused in the UK.  How can it be that an island nation that is surrounded by such an abundant, tasty and nutritious foodstuff can almost completely ignore its potential as food.

In fact seaweed is not completely ignored in Great Britain, the Welsh have Laver bread , once described as “Welshman’s caviar” by Richard Burton and the Irish have Dillisk which is eaten as crisps as well as being added to  everything from apple to bread dough. But even when you take these into consideration we are still missing a trick!

One of the best facts about seaweed on the British coast is that they are all edible. Any seaweed that is attached, not washed up or just floating about, but actually attached in the intertidal zone is edible. So there are none of the worries about poisoning that we have with plants and fungi.

However, edible is one thing and palatable is another and although you will not be poisoned you might find some of the tastes and textures a little ‘challenging’ as food. Having grazed on many different seaweeds we have developed a list of 10 that we regularly use in cooking and thoroughly enjoy.

  • Laver porphyra sp.
  • Sea lettuce Ulva lactuca
  • Dulse Palmaria palmate
  • Pepper dulse  Osmundea pinnatifida
  • Sea spaghetti himanthalia elongata
  • Gutweed Ulva intestinalis
  • Oarweed Laminaria digitalis
  • Sugar kelp Laminaria sacharina
  • Carrageen Chondrus crispus
  • Bladder and toothed wrack Fucus sp.

In the following recipe we use a selection of these to make a delicious alternative to tartar sauce. We have replaced the capers and gerkins with crispy seaweeds and used lemon juice to give it a bit of extra tang.

Sea weeds used in Seaweed tartar sauce. (clockwise from the green one at the top) Gutweed, Sea spaghetti, Dulse, Sea lettuce, Oarweed, Pepper dulse.
Sea weeds used in Seaweed tartar sauce.
(clockwise from the green one at the top) Gutweed, Sea spaghetti, Dulse, Sea lettuce, Oarweed, Pepper dulse.

Seaweed tartar sauceIMG_4153
50 g of chopped mixed seaweed ( I would definately include some pepper dulse for its garlicy taste)
4 tblsp  mayonnaise
Lemon juice to taste.

Mix all the ingredients together and serve with white fish.

Go and experiment with seaweeds. Just remember to follow these rules.

  • You must not collect seaweeds that are washed up on the shore.
  •  You must always harvest living seaweed that is still attached rocks and other seaweeds.
  • Always cut the seaweed leaving the’ holdfast’ behind. This means that the seaweed will grow back. Scissors are great for this.
  • There are no coastal seaweeds in Britain that are poisonous, so experiment!
  • Always be aware of the tides and weather conditions in the area you are foraging in. Be safe.
  • Check that the area where you are foraging does not have water quality problems.  (You can check this on the environment agency website.)

For those of you on last weeks courses here are some great photos!

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