Your guid to edible seaweed foraging
Calling it weed sometimes can keep some people away from enjoying the best edible seaweed that our coast lines have to offer. Unlike sea fishing, you do not need to go into deep waters or spend hours casting lines. Go to any cove or beach, and you will find the tastiest seaweed that costs absolutely nothing to collect, and why make it into a full family activity? Foraging for seaweed can be so much fun when the kids get involved.
Seaweed is rich in vitamins and minerals like Vitamin A, C, proteins, and folic acid. Our bodies struggle to produce iodine so it’s lucky that seaweed absorbs the mineral from the water. The sugar quantity in seaweed is significantly less, and so are the salts, make sure to wash it with clean drinking water. Seaweed is also packed full of antioxidants that help protect the body’s cells from damage, what a hero!
If you are thinking of going out there and getting your own edible seaweed than you’re in luck because seaweed foraging is an exciting and relaxing activity. Before foraging edible seaweed, make sure the area you choose is pollution-free. Don’t look for seaweed in areas that are near factories or drains because their runoff may be contaminating the local marine area, causing you more harm than good.
Is all seaweed edible?
To answer this question is a little difficult. Because, yes, you can eat any of the seaweed varieties found along the coast. Fortunately, none are poisonous. However, some varieties of seaweed can be tough to eat, bitter, acidic, or downright smell awful.
This is a survival mechanism that helps seaweed to protect itself from predators. Once we tried picking what we originally thought was sea spaghetti in Kerry but after blanching it was like chewing on rope, definitely a lesson learned for picking the wrong variety.
How to properly forage seaweed
You should be careful when foraging any food. Never cut off a plant so deep down that it cannot grow back nor pull it from the roots because this will stop the growth of that plant, and you will damage the whole colony.
The best way to forage seaweed is to use scissors. Cut a little above from the rock it is on and leave some so that it can grow back. Take a wide mouth bucket with you and gently collect the whole plant.
Pro Tip: Bring a foraging knife and gloves with you to help cut plants properly. Click here to view foraging knives.
Try foraging seaweed in the colder months. The colder water keeps the seaweed fresh, and it tends to grow from November onwards. Foraging in warmer months means you will be collecting seaweed that isn’t fresh, maybe dead, and will not taste good.
Be aware of the tide schedules. Always check the tide times before going to pick any seaweed because you need to pick it when the tide is out as most edible seaweed types are found a bit further out.
It is advisable to go with a friend or partner just in case anything was to happen. Seaweed is very slippery, so walking along the rocks can be hazardous. If you are alone and get into an accident, no one will be able to help or locate you. Therefore, always go out foraging for seaweed with someone else.
How to clean seaweed
If you are careful enough when picking seaweed from the coast, you can try to have less sand on it. Still, it needs to be washed thoroughly. In the same bucket, you used to collect the seaweed, flow in some water from a hose and give it a bath.
Fill the bucket and let it sit for a few minutes. Collect all of it with your fingers and transfer it into a strainer or a colander. For a second time run it under clean water and allow the water drain completely 3 or 4 times. Now you have some fresh and clean seaweed that’s ready for use. It’s going to taste great whatever you do with it.
One of the easier methods for preparing seaweed is to dry it. Often in the summer months you will be able to spot large patches of fields that have been covered in seaweed to make use of the sun.
To dry seaweed outside you need to either get new sheets of use the old ones from storage. Making sure they are clean, lay the sheets on the ground and cover with your freshly foraged seaweed. Leave it in the open air, away from direct sunlight, and be patient.
Different seaweed varieties will dry different rates; once you are sure that it is dry and there is not moisture left, you can grind it or break it into larger pieces to be placed in jars.
When properly dried and stored, seaweed can be used for up to 2 years from the day of foraging. That’s a gift that keeps on giving if you ask us!
How to cook or prepare seaweed
Well, I’m no chef, but I do have a trick or two up my sleeve when it comes to using seaweed in recipes. Most of the dried varieties like Dulse or Kelp can be sprinkled in with soups or salads to spice up your dishes with lots of flavors.
Recipe Tip: This is the easiest recipe we know, and it comes from the book Wild Food. If you want to really impress, then try a Carrageen panna cotta. It’s a fail-safe and showstopper dessert when you add an easy berry compote to the top of it. We made this for a group of people while staying in Mayo and it still gets mentioned to this day.
Popular seaweed types
The most popular seaweed type based on the amount eaten and farmed is Nori. Nori is farmed because of its excessive use in Sushi and it makes a tasty snack as well. Kombu is another type of seaweed that tastes really good and is often sprinkled dry on Sushi rice. On the other hand, Wakame can be used as a salad and is also an excellent addition to soups. Ogonori is an excellent seaweed that can be used to make vegan jelly.
Around the shores or Ireland and the UK, you will find Oar weed which can be used to flavor your dishes. In comparison, when dried sea lettuce and Laver can be sprinkled on many dishes to give them the taste of the sea. Another option for sea lettuce is to simply eat it raw after giving it a quick wash. Dried Dulse can be used to make tarts and fish cakes, let it age and experience an enhanced taste every time you reach that airtight jar. While Carrageen is great for making anything that needs setting like panna cotta or even a cold and flu remedy.