Living on seashores and beaches has its advantages and besides providing an escape route, the sea can offer so much more when it comes to food. From fish, to the plants growing along the seashore and even the highly nutritious seaweed, which is versatile and easily accessible. Here is what edible seaweeds you should forage if you are at the beach.
Before you start you have to first think about safety. Always go in pairs when doing coastal foraging as the exposed rocks are covered with seaweeds and can prove very slippery. Falling and hitting your head on the rocks can be lethal. It is also a good idea to know the foraging area, especially the tidal and weather conditions. You have to play it safe and never venture too far beyond the tidal limits as the changes in wind and weather can affect the tide and you will be trapped or even worse.
Regarding the equipment needed, her are the essentials:
- Communication device (mobile phone, walkies-talkie, etc) – make sure it’s fully charged.
- Weatherproof clothing and life vests for those who can’t swim.
- A good knife for cutting the edible seaweeds.
- A bucket or basket.
- A net bag or an old onion sack (in case you want to do some fishing in small water holes).
- A light source or head lamp.
- A walking stick (it will help you keep your stability and balance on the slippery rocks).
- Local tide and weather information (never go out when you are uncertain about the weather).
- Fishing equipment (if you plan to cooks something else than edible seaweeds)
Seaweed is categorized in three main groups, all easily recognizable based on their color:
- Green seaweeds or Chlorospermeae, found in highest water regions
- Brown seaweeds or Melanospermeae, found below the tide marks at a depth of 1-3 fathoms
- Red seaweeds or Rhodospermeae, found below the tide to a depth of 100-120 fathoms
If you have ever been in a sushi restaurant you know that seaweed is considered a delicacy in Japan, but many other countries around the globe have started appreciating its quality and we now have seaweeds farms all over the globe.
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Before cooking or eating the seaweeds, it is recommended to wash it thoroughly or soak it for a short period of time so that the salts from the seaweed texture can be expelled.
Types of edible seaweeds and how to cook them:
Edible Seaweeds – Sea Lettuce (Ulva)
With a vibrant green color this seaweed looks good enough to eat on the spot. It has a soft texture and taste and it’s really good raw or steamed. You can add a pinch of salt and pepper and a little vinegar to develop the taste. You can find it covering the rocks along the higher tidal zones. It is better to gather it when it’s still covered by clear seawater. This way, you can be sure it didn’t collect sand, it’s not dried by the sun and hasn’t been contaminated by sea creatures.
Edible Seaweeds – Oarweed (Laminaria digiata)
Oarweed is a tough, leathery, dark brown seaweed that grows up to 9 feet. Being tougher than other edible seaweeds you can cut it into fine strips or slices and add it to stir fries, soups or stews. You can dry it and store it in airtight containers for later use as it can be easily re-hydrated. You can deep fry the dried chips and make some tasty dishes. From its roots or root-like parts you can make handles or cords. Laminaria digiata can be found in the lower tidal zone and can only be reached during low spring tides.
Edible Seaweeds – Lava (Porphyra umbilicalis)
Lava is an almost see-trough seaweed that can be found stretched against the rocks at low tide. It has a dark brown to greenish color and it’s of rubbery texture. If you eat it raw you have a lot of chewing ahead of you considering it’s delicate construction. It is native to Wales where cooked and commercially sold as lava bread. It has a high protein content (45%) being a good staple meat substitute. You can toast it or add it to salads or soups after carefully chopping it. If you want to use it for other recipes, it is recommended to boil it for 2-3 hours.
Edible Seaweeds – Dulse (Palmaria palmata)
This seaweed is so tender and soft to the bite that you must add it to salads and eat it raw. It can also be consumed steamed, boiled or fried. By drying it you can add it to bread dough for a delicate flavor. These edible seaweeds can be found in the mid tidal zone and always go for the purple ferns. Some of the more mature ferns will require cooking before eating, unless you like a mild chewing. During cooking, this seaweed will change color from red to green.
Edible Seaweeds – Sea Spaghetti (Himanthalia elongata)
This is long and brown seaweed that looks like spaghetti. Just like spaghetti it is easy to cook if cut into long pieces. Just like palmaria palmata it will change color when cooked, from brown to green. You can add it to strips of meat or stir fried vegetables. Make sure you wash it thoroughly before cooking as small sea creatures may be entangled in it.
Edible Seaweeds – Sugar Kelp (Laminaria saccharina)
These edible seaweeds form the forests of the sea and has a long, belt-like form with frilly edges and a rippled mid-section. It can be found in low water zones and it grows in the vicinity of oarweed. Sugar kelp can be dried and stored for later use. It changes color when cooked and becomes rich green. It can be used as wrapping for foods, especially fish. Sugar kelp is also a good addition to stir fries and soups if you cut it in thin slices.
Every prepepr needs to have a good knowledge about foraging and learning about these edible seaweeds will give you an advantage when food is scarce and you have to survive with what the sea has to offer. Some of these edible seaweeds might not look appealing at first but they will provide you with all the nutrients you need in order to survive.
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