One of the activities we’ve been engaging in since moving to the Outer Hebrides is gathering seaweed and experimenting with using it in all manner of ways. We admit we’re only now starting to truly appreciate the wonder of this saltwater algae.
Did you know that there are around 10,000 species of seaweed in the world, and over 600 different varieties around the British Isles alone? They are classified into three groups – red, green and brown – with the green varieties favouring the shore and the brown types, such as kelp, growing in submerged forests beyond the low tide.
Seaweed is a superfood. What has long been a stable component of the East Asian diet (the Japanese consume 1.6kg of dried seaweed per person per year) is now experiencing a revival in the West. And seaweed not only provides nutrition for humans, it also serves as animal fodder and plant fertiliser, as well as being a crucial ingredient in pharmaceutical and beauty products.
Depending on the individual species, seaweeds are rich in calcium, phosphorous, iodine, magnesium, iron, potassium, sodium, copper and zinc, all of which are essential minerals for healthy bodies. They also contain Vitamin B12, the important element which tends to be lacking in vegan diets, as well as being a valuable source of fibre and protein.
So far, we’ve added seaweed to a carrot cake, to our nettle soup recipe and to our all-seasons quiche. We’ve also made Cornish pasties and seaweed bhajis, as well as substituting sea spaghetti for the more usual pasta in a tasty Italian dish. And one of our favourite snacks is kelp crisps.
If you are fortunate enough to live near a place where you can forage your own seaweed, you may wish to try some of the recipes on The Cornish Seaweed Company website. Alternatively, their Seaweed Cookbook is well worth the investment.
The Seaweed Cookbook, Caroline Warwick-Evans and Tim van Berkel (Lorenz, 2020)