Eating seaweed – my wild food weekend, part 2

Eating seaweed – my wild food weekend, part 2

This is part 2 of my wild food weekend with Miles Irving.  Check out part 1 here.

One of the first rules of foraging is to look for the abundance.  Well, seaweed is hugely abundant on the UK coast, but strangely enough we prefer to import seaweed into our health food shops rather than using the local stuff!

On day #2 of the wild food weekend, we headed to the seashore.  Of course I’ve heard about the health benefits of seaweeds through my nutrition course – seaweeds are a good source of iodine, vitamins A & C, calcium, iron and one of the few vegetable sources of vitamin B12.  But seaweed foraging was new to me, as living in London I don’t spend much time on the coast.

Forget the slimy, tough reputation … I made two delicious discoveries this weekend.  Pepper dulse and Irish Moss are going to come back with me on any trip to the seashore.  I also discovered wild rocket.  And apparently learned what cyanide tastes like (though I don’t like to think about that…).

Now onto the pictures of the seashore!  My other favorite discovery of the weekend was wild rocket.  You know the bags of rocket (arugula) sold in the grocery store?  Well this is the exact same stuffbut wild rocket is wild, organic, seasonal, local, AND FREE.  Wild rocket grows abundantly across the UK.  My next weekend project is finding a source close to home!

wild rocket

bunch of wild rocket

We also collected big handfuls of sea lettuce, which is the green stuff on these rocks.  Yes, it tastes better than it looks.

sea lettuce

Pepper Dulse is a red seaweed that has a peppery, garlicky taste, and can be added to broth-based soups or salads.  This was one of the plants that we couldn’t stop eating.  While walking along the beach, several of us kept plucking some pepper dulse off the rocks and snacking on it – it was that good.  Pepper dulse is in the bowl on the left.  Sea lettuce is the green stuff on the right.

Pepper dulse and sea lettuce

And here is our bowl of English miso soup, complete with some pepper dulse.

English miso soup with foraged seaweed

Carrageen (Irish Moss) is another red seaweed that you’ve probably eaten lots of without knowing it.  Carrageen is a commonly used thickener in toothpaste, ice cream and processed foods.  It’s also a vegetarian version of gelatin.

For dessert, we made sloe-blossom infused panna cotta, thickened with carrageen.

Sloe blossoms give a delicate, almond like flavor (which I’m told is due to their cyanide content.  Um, yeah.  I tried to forget that and just kept eating.)

sloe blossom panna cotta

The best seaweed ever is samphire.  It’s even sold at the fish counter of my local grocery store.

Unfortunately, it was too early in the season to pick any.  But here are little samphire shoots pushing through the sand.

samphire just starting to grow

And finally, our foraged coastal feast.  Roasted dogfish with cream sauce, toothed wrack two ways, sea purslane, carrot nettle salad and beets with ground ivy.  All with a nice bottle of non-foraged sauvignon blanc.  And sloe-blossom infused panna cotta for dessert.  Bon appetit! A foraged coastal feast

Are you feeling brave enough to forage yet?  Get yourself a good foraging book (like The Forager Handbook in the UK), and start with familiar plants you can identify easily.  Or take a course to get you started.  Food is everywhere if you know where to look!  Happy foraging.

About the author

Amanda Cook is an author, entrepreneur & alchemist. She helps entrepreneurs, business owners & executives rediscover their inner guidance, so they can create meaning, success & magic in their next stage of life & work.

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  1. When I was a kid, I was so lucky to belong to a family who foraged for mushrooms, berries and nuts. I learned, at an early age, how to collect food from the forest in a way which would be sustainable. These days, it sometimes seems that folks don’t get the connection between what they eat and nature. This post is so inspiring … actually, your whole blog is. I’m so glad that a link to your site was included in our Meet & Greet. I’m off to read more! Thanks!

    1. Thanks!!! I really want people to understand that traditional skills like foraging can be incorporated into everyone’s lives, it doesn’t have to be a big deal and really makes you so much more in-tune with the natural world! You’re so lucky to have had that experience as a kid… share that experience with others 😉

  2. Hi from the Meet and Greet. What an incredible sounding time – thank you so much for sharing. I’m totally inspired by people who forage. I forage for my bunny every day and I’ve learned so much (especially that you can find dandelion leaves around 360 days of the year if you look really closely in a mild English winter!) I’m going to check out the book you recommend too – thank you!

    1. If you’re already foraging for your bunny, the next step is just snacking on the dandelion leaves yourself 🙂 Since you’re in the UK definitely check out the Forager handbook, it’s excellent – or visit the Forager website for upcoming classes/events. Let me know if you make any amazing wild food discoveries!

  3. Once on a tiny beach south of Monterey I was completely blown away by the diversity of sea weeds, just lying on the beach in a plethora of colours, all tingling with sun bouncing off the moisture. Of course, I had to sample. Most of them were delicious. CelloDad discovered me munching, and said, “What are you doing?” – “Sampling the local fare” – “Are you crazy? That seal probably just peed on it.” I look up and sure enough, there is a young seal luxuriously sunning itself a little further on the beach.
    CelloDad is a city boy who wants his food from a supermarket, thanks very much. I didn’t think that a little seal pee would kill me. Besides, the Pacific is a big place, and the probability that there was indeed seal pee on my seaweed is close to nil.
    But later a friend of mind pointed out that you probably want to be careful on that coast, since it gets effluent from California’s agricultural lands. After all, it was in Watsonville that I stopped eating conventional strawberries, having seen the guy who was spraying the fields wearing a full-body protection suit, plus a breathing mask.
    What do you think? Should I still eat my dulse? (I love dulse).
    (Hi from Small Footprints’ Meet&Greet)

    1. Great story! Thanks for sharing. I definitely would not be worried about a little seal pee 🙂 The agricultural contamination is another issue though. I wouldn’t eat from polluted waters for sure. I’m not at all an expert in this area – but on our foraging weekend it came up that some brown seaweeds can have high heavy-metal levels, so while they’re fine to eat from time to time, they shouldn’t be a big part of your daily diet. So I’d tend to follow the same logic here – go ahead and eat your dulse, but if you want to eat it daily, find a clean-water source.

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