Seaweed is an abundant food source and with literally 100s of varieties.
Here in the UK, there are a number of edible seaweed varieties that can, with a little bit of know-how, add great flavour and vibrancy to your cooking. Not only that, seaweed is a true super-ingredient, with a broad range of minerals and vitamins, its high in fibre and a source of protein all pumping up the goodness too.
Dulse is an elegant and beautiful-looking seaweed with dark red or purple blades of varying widths, on occasion growing up to half a meter in length! These blades often split into sections that start to look like fingers on a hand, hence its name Palmaria. With a salty taste, some say a little like bacon, dulse is a source of plant protein and potassium along with many other minerals.
Sea Spaghetti is a particularly striking seaweed that grows in long ribbon-like blades, of up to several meters in length. Sea Spaghetti grows in abundance on our stretch of the Devon coastline and, due to its mild taste and nutritional impact.
Sea Lettuce is a lovely pale green with beautifully fresh-looking broad leaves, looking a little like what you’d expect from homegrown garden lettuce – hence the name. Sea Lettuce particularly when dried has a delicate, soft texture but a strong taste, which is why it should be used sparingly in order not to overpower the subtle flavours of its companions in the blends.
Kelp – the brown seaweed Kelp is big (and we mean big in many ways). It’s literally big, with fronds like leathery strips that can be many meters long. Some varieties can form kelp forests, which act as carbon sinks and house an incredibly diverse range of sea life. As an edible seaweed, it’s easy to identify and to clean, though it’s high levels of iodine mean it’s important not to eat too much
Laver is a fine seaweed, commonly associated with the traditional Welsh dish of Laverbread. Laver, classified as a red algae, is known for its mineral content such as iron and iodine. Laver is a slippery customer, with thin membranous fronds, growing on rocks and stones on exposed sandy beaches
Carragreen/Irish Moss You might not realise it but you could be eating seaweed more often than you realise! Carrageen, also known as Irish Moss, has been harvested for centuries for its Carageenan, which can be used as a thickener in food like ice-cream. Carageen is usually a deep red/purple
Gutweed or Ulva intestinalis (sometimes known as Grass Kelp) is a fast-growing seaweed that is extremely common in the UK. It can be found in a wide variety of habitats including rock pools, sand, mud and salt marshes. The fronds are like tiny tubes (hence the name) and buoyed by the gas in these tubes, gutweed can often be seen on the surface of the water in large floating masses.
These are just some of the seaweeds you can find around the British coastline – and if you’re interested in the process of harvesting there are a number of courses and books available that will guide you through sustainability, identification and cooking. We strongly recommend that you take expert advice by joining one of these courses before venturing out.
Read more on this article HERE
Further information about marine life, including seaweeds HERE
Find out more about the Sussex Wildlife Trust’s Help our Kelp campaign with Sir David Attenborough >