Weed wealth — from the sea

Weeds from the sea

Lunch today had a new flavour, though it was difficult to pin down. A taste of the sea was suggested, but I didn’t get it. All that was reaching my taste buds was nutty homemade bread. The meat with it was good, too, as was the mixed salad.

Not sure how I expected seaweed to taste, but with my new book, The Seaweed Cage, raising my awareness to mentions of seaweed in the media, I had followed up on a recent article. This explained that seaweed is not only a nutritious alternative to salt but also a natural flavour enhancer rich in minerals, vitamins and trace elements. Indeed, it’s considered the most highly mineralized vegetable on earth, providing minerals often absent from crops grown on mineral-depleted soils.

No salt required

Some say 2000, others say there are 3000 different kinds of seaweed.

Some months ago as part of my seaweed research, prompted by the fascination of a character with seaweeds and their different uses, I bought some — well, quite a lot, in fact, as Costco was selling a pack of ten packets of Korean roasted, seasoned seaweed. To date we hadn’t used the stuff as we were unsure what to do with it.

A sheet of seaweed

Korean roasted, seasoned seaweed — comes in thin sheets.

Interesting pattern

Sheets of Korean seaweed held together with Corn oil, Grape seed oil, Sesame oil and Sea salt

Having read this article, and noted more recipes, husband who is our in-house breadmaker, sprinkled some sheets into this morning’s loaf, with additional sheets spread on top for good measure. It was this loaf we were enjoying at lunchtime.

The company mentioned in the article, Mara, is a Scottish one, and along with Otter Ferry Fish Farm and the Scottish Association of Marine Science, they have won a grant for a seaweed farming project from a new Government fund to promote innovation in agriculture. This new project means the seaweed Mara uses can be picked 12 months of the year.

Weed pack

WE’ve ten of these packets, so welcome suggestions for the seaweed’s use.

The seaweeds Mara sources are from the shores of Ireland and from around Scotland where the clear, cold waters are renowned for premium quality seafood, including seaweed. According to Mara, the quality of our wild seaweed is incredibly good, in fact, “we have seaweed wealth.” http://www.maraseaweed.com

Described as a superfood, seaweed is not new to our Scottish shores, merely forgotten. From prehistoric times until the 20th century, it was a staple part of the diet for Scots who lived in coastal areas. Dulse-wives are said to have been a well-known sight, similar to the women who sold herring, sitting on stools with their creels (large baskets) of dulse beside them, tempting the public to buy their wares.

Surprisingly, my Meg Dods’ Cookery of 1864 doesn’t mention seaweed, but Marian McNeill’s The Scots Kitchen tells of seaweed being eaten in various parts of Scotland, especially the islands, and gives a number of recipes: Sea Tangle; Dulse Fish; Sloke Jelly and Sloke Sauce (said to be especially good with roast mutton); Slokan; Seaweed Soup; and Carrageen Mould with options for adding Seville oranges to flavour it, and a carrageen drink, both of which are recommended for invalids and convalescents.

Yummy

Husband’s wonderful bread — nothing else quite like it.

Today, far from seaweed being a food in times of illness, it will be those seeking healthly lifestyles, concerned by the sustainability of items we eat and use, who will be reacquainting themselves with an out of favour food in place of the junk that has usurped good nutritious fare.

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About jingsandthings

I am me. What do I like? Colour Shapes Textures Paintings, photographs, sculptures, woven tapestries, wonderful materials. The love of materials probably comes from my father who was a textile buyer, and I grew up hearing the names of mills and manufacturers which sounded magical and enticing. Glass in all its soft and vibrant colours and flowing shapes, even sixties glass which makes its own proud statement. A book I can immerse myself in. Meals with family or friends with lots of chat and laughter (and probably a bottle or two of wine). The occasional trip abroad to experience the sights, sounds, food, conversation, quality of light and warmth of other countries. To revel in differences and be amazed by similarities. I like to create and to experience, to try and to achieve. And then there are words – read, heard, written at my keyboard, or scrawled on sticky notes, or along the edges of dog-eared supermarket receipts excavated from the unexplored nooks of my handbag. What do I dislike? Cold Snow Bad design Fast food Condescension
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20 Responses to Weed wealth — from the sea

  1. Really interesting, Dorothy – especially that seaweed was previously such an integral part of the Scottish diet. Are you officially a convert now? 🙂

    • I had vaguely heard about seaweed being eaten (especially in the islands where food could be scarce, and growing things difficult because of exposed situations) but had never before heard of the dulse sellers. Always having lived near the coast (nowhere in Scotland is all that far from the sea) seaweed is part of the landscape/seascape. My father used to gather it to mulch his roses. Not sure if I’d like to eat it as a vegetable, but in the form we bought it, it’s more like a seasoning than anything else. My daughter is a vegetarian and she’s into it, though again I think it’s more seaweed as a seasoning. We’re now onto our second pack, just eight more to go, so it’s basically being added to whatever I’m cooking. Food is too precious to waste.

  2. This is something that I’ve been wanting to try. Must look for one…

    • I think most health food shops probably sell it. My daughter is a vegetarian and she seems to eat seaweed (probably more as a seasoning) on a regular basis. Anything that’s said to be so good for you, is definitely worth a try.

  3. Dorothy, that was both delightful and interesting. Your ‘About’ page is quite impressive too. Keep up all the creativity . 🙂

    • Thank you for your kind words. They are much appreciated. Creativity at present is being caged as I can’t find time for everything I want to do. Next book almost ready for publishing, though I want to do an iBooks version complete with photographs and am having trouble deciding what to use. I’m also revising the following one, and have started another. So time for blogging lessens by the day.

  4. Chris says:

    I haven’t been by your blog in far too long! So many new, beautiful photos to admire, posts to read, and news of a new book out! Congrats on the latter. Lovely cover, too!
    The Korean seaweed, kim, is lovely crumbled over rice. It’s the same seaweed the Japanese call nori and use to make tasty mixtures with spices or sesame seeds and a little salt, called furikake and used for seasoning rice or rice balls.
    It can be used like nori to make small sushi rolls too–unless it’s been toasted too stiff. Koreans sushi is called kimbap, but as far as I know, doesn’t use vinegar in the rice. I think sesame oil is involved instead.
    Some seaweeds can be used to make a lovely light stock, like kombu (a kelp) for Japanese kombu dashi. You’d want to get some bonito fish flakes too, to make that. It’s quite a delicate broth.
    Nori / kim is the same thing as laver, which is funny, because the first thing I thought when I began to read your post and saw the words “seaweed” and “bread” was “Oh, laverbread!” But laverbread isn’t actually a bread… I’ve never tried it, but I’d like to someday.

    • Hi Chris,
      Many thanks for your informative reply. It becomes difficult keeping up with blogs, doesn’t it!

      I had no idea kim was the same as nori, and would never have thought of mixing it with spices or sesame seeds. Must try that. I’ve heard of laverbread but was never sure what it was. Must Google it. Many traditional recipes that people around our shores traditionally used have disappeared. Whereas they ate what was available, fresh, locally, we now trot to a supermarket and buy stuff that’s crossed the world, or been manipulated until it becomes as plastic as the wrapping.

      That’s one of the benefits of writing — the amount of information you learn on a wide range of fascinating subjects. A character in my book decides to write a book on seaweed, and the more I learn about it, the more I am certain there is material for a book (would have to be written by someone with more scientific knowledge than me, though). Think of the wonderful photographs.

      Many thanks for your great response.

      • carolee1945 says:

        I love what you are doing here: going deeper into a topic and finding you can just learn more and more!!! I actually never gave seaweed a second glance except to enjoy it at Japanese restaurants. I was so surprised when my daughter had a huge pack of it from Costco and said her two year old daughter loves it. When an item is available at Costco, you know it is mainstream!!!

      • Fiona Bird says:

        Yes, it is really beautiful I blog about it from time to time.http://seaweednamara.blogspot.co.uk There are some seaweed recipes in The Forager’s Kitchen (Cico Books 2013) and lots in Seaweed in the Kitchen (Prospect Books), which will be published later this year. Each seaweed is different and I would suggest that you avoid artisan blends until you become discerning.I cook with seaweed because I live on an Isle, where in winter, when the ferries are stormbound, sea vegetables are the obvious choice. I have even made a seaweed starter for sourdough; once you get going the culinary possibilities are endless.

      • Thank you for replying. Off to make the meal at present but will have a good look at your recipes later, and have signed up for your blog. Fascinating about the seaweed starter for sourdough — adore sourdough bread.

  5. That’s where I bought my pack — about ten packet of it, and each packet has lots of ‘leafs’ of seaweed. I keep adding it to what I’m making.

    Despite having spent much of my life by or near the sea, it wasn’t until I started to take photographs of seaweed for my book that I realised how many different kinds there were, even in one small patch of beach. And the colours range from brown to olive green to bright free and even shocking pink. Unbelievable.

  6. Chris says:

    Aren’t the colours and textures great? And it’s funny how you can have something so nearby for so long and then suddenly see it in a different light one day. That’s one thing I love about writing too; just as you say, you start looking up all kinds of things and learning stuff you never imagined.

    Yes, so sad that we trot to the supermarket for everything now. The wealth of the world is now at our doorstep, but so many of us no longer know what it’s like to pull a carrot out of the ground. I love my garden, and love going “shopping” for herbs and vegetables by stepping out into the garden right before cooking, or even in the middle of making a dish.

    You probably could write that book–even though you aren’t a scientist. You’d be a seaweed biologist by the time you finished your research. And the book would likely be more interesting than if it was written by a “real” scientist.

    • It’s fresh herbs I like to grow. I love having lots of parsley, basil and Greek basil, lemon thyme, rosemary, marjoram, dill. Don’t always manage to grow them although my pots of lemon thyme, marjoram and rosemary have survived a few years, but are prone to bad winters. Fresh herbs add so much flavour to dishes, and often a wonderful aroma too.

      As for the book…I’ll keep it in mind…you never know.

  7. Dina says:

    This is most interesting! Thanks for sharing, Dorothy!

    • I suspect many communities by the sea found uses for seaweed. Perhaps you know of some in the Scandinavian countries. If you do, it would be good to hear of them.

      • Dina says:

        Yes, the west coast of Norway is famous for its seaweed.
        It’s controversial though, this is maybe beside the topic, but I found it very interesting:

  8. Thank you for that link, Dina. I had no idea seaweed was harvested on such an industrial scale. That must devastate the seabed. I know fishing trawlers can have a similar effect as they scrape the seabed, but this looks even worse. I suspect few of us actually appreciate the role seaweed plays in sustaining life in the sea.

  9. I love seaweed, I ate that before anything else, probably starting with kappamakki, sushi rolls with cucumber but also just as crunchy seaweed. Still love it and always bring a few bags with snacks when I fly back to London.

  10. Seaweed is supposedly very good for you, but I can’t say much is eaten or even available here. Must try making sushi. Not a great fish fan, but maybe I could use smoked salmon or just vegetables. Will Google and see what recipes appear.

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