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 stuff, but 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!
We also collected big handfuls of sea lettuce, which is the green stuff on these rocks. Yes, it tastes better than it looks.
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.
And here is our bowl of English miso soup, complete with some pepper dulse.
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.)
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.
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!
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.