Seaweed Foraging – an eye-opener

By Karin Funke

Seaweed foraging spanish point sea vegWhen Birgitta asked me to go on the seaweed foraging walk that was organised as one of the many events of the Burren Slow Food Festival (May 2012), I was delighted as I had discovered the benefits and secret life of seaweed a few years ago. That was around the time we got our first seaweed products in for the Burren Smokehouse visitor centre. When I read the flyers provided by the producers, I decided to do some more research and share my amazing finds on our website.

Birgitta Hedin Curtin, Donal Skehan, Ger TaltyOn an unseasonly cold and windy Saturday morning in the middle of May, we gathered around Ger Talty, the owner of Spanish Point Sea Veg, a name which which has now been changed into Wild Irish Sea Veg to be a bit less misleading.

Ger is one of four generations of seaweed gatherers currently working in the business. He showed us different kinds of seaweed and the differences between commonly found marine snails like periwinkles which he had laid out on the flat rocks.

Ger made aseaweed and yellow marine snail point of showing us how to harvest seaweed sustainably – which is course something that his family would very much depend on. They are harvesting in certain areas the water qualities of which are regularly monitored by the HSE.

We slowly made our way down to the shore and water pools in which we discovered interesting marine life like sea urchins, snails and delicate looking kinds of seaweed.

Seaweed foraging spanish point sea veg

Many seaweeds can be eaten raw and fresh from the water or the shore. I personally am not a fan of it, but for all sushi lovers they will go down a treat.

Ger found some pepper dillisk for us to taste which was much more palatable to me. It actually tasted like a mix of the pepper plant and the pepper spice, with only a slight aftertaste of the sea.

Burren smokehouse spanish point sea vegBack at the head quarters of the operation, the family had put on a big, delicious spread for us: healthy seaweed jelly (juice thickened with carragheen), seaweed crisps baked off in the oven – a healthy alternative to crisps bought in the shops which are full of saturated fatty acids and salt, seaweed cooked in different sauces and so on.

Burren Smokehouse Spanish Point Sea VegSeaweed tends to be tasteless once it is dried, and it takes on the flavour of whatever it is prepared with. So carragheen for example is used as a thickener and has no taste of its own which in my books is a very big bonus.

Whatever you will cook dried seaweeds in will give its taste to the sea vegetables, and you will get all the benefits of the mineral-laden seaweed!

Prannie Rhatigan irish seaweed kitchenIf you are wondering now how to use seaweed in your daily diet, there is a fantastic cookbook by Prannie Rhatigan called “Irish Seaweed Kitchen” which I bought myself as I was intrigued by recipes that are delicious and contain so many healthy, natural ingredients.

Alternatively, we have a few recipes on our website (see here – search for “seaweed” under Ingredients).

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