Laver is a type of seaweed that can be found in cold, shallow waters. It has been used for centuries as an important part of traditional food across Asia, Ireland, Wales, and parts of England.
With its many health benefits, laver seaweed has become a staple food item for people who want to stay healthy. This blog will explore all you need to know about laver seaweed including what exactly it is, the different types of laver seaweeds, how to collect it, and laver recipes.
Varieties of Laver
Those new to seaweed foraging often find themselves asking is laver and seaweed the same? The answer is yes, it is a type of seaweed. Laver seaweed is in the seaweed family but there are different types of laver.
Purple Laver: One of the most common types, purple laver seaweeds are also known as Porphyra or Pterophyta and can be found in cold, shallow waters all around Ireland and Wales.
Green Laver: Another commonly used laver. Green laver can be found in the North Atlantic, Baltic Sea, and Arctic Ocean.
Stone Laver: Similar to the purple and green varieties, stone laver can be found in rock pools all around the UK, Scotland and Ireland.
Gim: Mistaken as a variety of laver, gim is actually Korean laver.
Now you know about the different varieties, let’s talk about why this seaweed is so popular in the first place.
There are many seaweed laver health benefits. These seaweeds contain minerals, vitamins and other nutrients that not only offer a wide range of amino acids but also help to provide the body with selenium which is an ingredient required for good thyroid function.
Selenium, a compound found in laver or gim, may be beneficial in slowing down the onset of ageing as well as decreasing inflammation and boosting immune system response.
Eating seaweed can reduce cholesterol levels by up to 20% while lowering blood pressure and reducing tumor growth rates through their anti-cancer properties.
In Korea, gim (aka laver) is known to help with thyroid function, regulate menstruation, and helps with skin health.
Where to find laver
Laver can be found across the world but has been popular in the UK, Wales, Ireland and Korea for some time. when looking to collect it, try searching around large rocks, where the water moves slowly.
How do you harvest laver?
Collecting laver at low tide is best and easiest for an amateur collector. Laver needs to have washed up on shore in order to pick it up so heading out early morning or late evening when the tides are lower will increase your chances of finding some.
The first step is to be mindful not to pull the seaweed from the holdfast but use a foraging knife to cut it free after the holdfast.
Next have your bucket ready and begin. This seaweed can be very tedious to collect but it’s worth it. A mornings laver picking can set you up for weeks if you collect enough and prepare it correctly after harvesting.
How do you eat laver?
Laver seaweed has been eaten by humans since prehistory where archaeological evidence shows that people living on Orkney Islands ate large quantities of this type of seaweed as far back as 3000 BC.
Like all seaweed it can be eaten cold but It was often dried then ground into flour which could be used in porridge or ale bread recipes! The taste can vary with maturity but ranges between salty and peppery with an earthy flavour.
Laver can be eaten dried, toasted or stir-fried and has been used as an additive for centuries. It was often smoked with bacon fat which imparts a smoky flavour before being added into soups.
The most common use of this seaweed has been Laver bread. Becoming popular all over Ireland during the Great Famine, it is now is considered a part of a traditional welsh breakfast as well.
Laverbread is very dense and dark but tastes slightly salty with hints of smokey flavour.
To make laver bread start by boiling laver in water until it becomes soft enough to mash. Add a few scoops of oatmeal to help hold the shape.
Mix in salt and pepper then pour mixture onto an oven tray lined with baking parchment, olive oil, or greased with butter. Place it in an oven preheated at 180 degrees Celsius for about 20 minutes, before removing from the oven and serving warm.
Some people even buy tinned laverbread but we recommend either making it yourself.
What else can you make?
In Wales, laver is used as an alternative to butter on toast or used in sandwiches. The most popular way to eat laver is fried with bacon, a dish that originated in Cornwall which was traditionally eaten during Lent.
A popular cooking method is to use it in a stir fry or eat it n a seaweed salad with some lemon juice squeezed over the top to provide that citric balance.
Some uses can seem strange at first, like tinned laverbread, bit others like drying it out and making a fine powder can really useful as a condiment in your store cupboard.
To wrap this up like rice in a nori roll, laver seaweed has been around for centuries and has always been an important part of coastal communities all over the world. It’s delicious, nutritious and versatile – what better reason could there be to give up your butter on toast?