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.
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.
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.
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.
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.