By: Blonde Two
It continues to be stormy down here by the Devon seaside, which means that, as an outdoor swimmer with a serious sea swimming addiction, I have been wading through rather a lot of seaweed in order to find a patch of water flat enough to swim (or at least bob about) it. Seaweed is fascinating stuff but, despite having had forays into experimental seaweed recipes and cooking with seaweed, I must confess to knowing very little about it. I am not planning to eat any of the piles of the stuff currently covering our beaches but, come the warmer months, I am tempted to do a little more seaweed foraging. For now however, I feel that simply learning a few seaweed names might suffice. Here are the results of my recent seaweed education.
Thongweed (sea spaghetti)
Fortunately not the discarded swimwear of nubile beauties, this long thin wriggler is the one type of seaweed I have harvested (carefully with a knife) and eaten. Greenish brown, with fronds up to 6 feet long, I think I am going to need a bigger pasta dish!
There are a few types of dulse, but the one I am thinking about looks a bit like a loose, fronded red cabbage and I am prepared to believe that, once it has turned green instead of red, it would indeed taste like this wonderful vegetable. I have tried dulse dried and am tempted to give this a go in my dehydrator.
This one is delicate, brown and tastes like pepper. I would love to find some to dry and use in cooking… but I never have.
Bladderwrack is definitely an element of the seaweed forests that I try to avoid swimming over on longer sea swims. At 2 metres long, it is more than capable of tickling my tummy, especially as its air bladders hold it afloat (much in the same way mine do me). Cooking fish in it is recommended but I don’t think I could ever bring myself to eat it.
Carrageen looks a bit like an underwater fern and is the flat seaweed that I used to have fun throwing at my children when they were young. I could perhaps put some carrageen into soup as it works well as a thickening agent.
This ones looks like grass but isn’t to be confused with sea grass, of which we have some lovely beds. When the tide is out it looks like a green mat but it is very pretty when it is floating. It can apparently be compared to wild garlic and it great deep fried into crisps.
From time to time we have sea lettuce soup in which to take our daily swim. I often wonder what this fragile, flat delight would taste like. It’s easy identify because it looks just like… well… lettuce!
Saw toothed wrack
I am fairly sure that it is this seaweed we have in great bunches (and currently piles) growing from our rocks. Used in cosmetics, or in my case to mulch the vegetable patch, this one isn’t often eaten but apparently makes great tea.
If you have ever eaten seaweed-wrapped sushi you have probably eaten nori, which is very similar to our laver seaweed. Laver likes a mix of fresh and salt water and forms flat, brown sheets that require a considerable amount of boiling before they are rendered edible.
Oarweed is a type of kelp and I am guessing it earned it’s name by becoming entangled around oars. The weight of seaweed around legs, by the way, can be surprising. It grows in shallow seas and is too tough to eat as a vegetable but can be used like a bay leaf in soups or stews.
It is worth remembering at this point that seaweeds are all a part of important marine ecosystems. Foraging is fine but, if you are thinking about ‘harvesting’, you might be taking too much. Take only a little and use scissors rather than tugging seaweed off the rocks. Although if you want a pile of smelly mulch for your vegetable patch, I can currently recommend South Devon!