Seaweed – Benefits and how to use it…
One of the benefits of living on an island is that we generally have good access to seafoods. The cold waters surrounding the British Isles are teeming with fish, crustaceans, molluscs and cephlapods, but our diet has become restricted to a few species, fishing them to the brink of collapse. Some high-profile campaigns by TV chefs have worked hard to address this, but there is still a lot of work we can do to make the most of the natural resources we can safely harvest with little effort.
Seaweed is a greatly underestimated source of iron, potassium, magnesium, zinc, manganese and 60 further trace minerals. It can be found on most beaches and areas of coastline we can access around the UK so is really worth investigating further.
- Although it resembles a plant, seaweed is a type of complex algae
- Seaweed comes in three different types – green, red and brown
- The red algae type is used to create vegetable gelatines. Larger types of kelp are used for some animal feeds and fertilisers.
- Light consumption of seaweed is said to reduce cholesterol levels in the blood, high blood pressure, and arteriosclerosis. It is also known to have important antibacterial and antiviral effects.
- Seaweed contains B12 and also aliginic acid which can help the body eliminate toxins. It was used in the aftermath of the 1945 bombings at Nagasaki to protect people against the effects of radiation.
- Seaweed also contains 14 times more calcium by weight than milk and is high in protein, low in fat and contains only a small amount of carbohydrates.
- Original Outdoors, working in partnership with Rhug Estates at Rhug Foraging, provides seaweed to chefs in the UK and abroad.
Common UK Seaweed Species
The most commonly available seaweed types on the UK coast are:
Gutweed/Grass Kelp – Ulva intestinalis
Also known as ‘Bouaonori’ in Japan.
Bladder wrack – Fucus vesiculosis
The original source of iodine, and found across all sub-Artic northern oceans
Serrated wrack – Fucus serratus
Traditionally used and stored dried, and used in soups and stews.
Laver – Porphyra umbilicalis
High in iron and a delicacy in certain parts of the UK (Wales and Ireland mainly). Brown when raw, green when cooked and with a taste somewhere between olives and oysters! Known as ‘Nori’ in Japan.
Kelp – Laminarialis
A wide variety of kelp types can be found around the UK, and the taste varies accordingly. These are the largest varieties you tend to find on our coast, and the potential uses for Kelp range from foodstuffs to slimming drugs and fertiliser!
Please see the gallery below for images of some of these species.
How to prepare it
Seaweed can be used in salads, as toppings on sweet and savoury dishes, fried or stewed, It is chopped, dried or sliced. It can be blended and used as an anti toxin drink.
Kept fresh, it has a life of around a week if kept marinated and several weeks if dried.
How to find out more
As with any foraging and wild food experimentation, it is the responsibility of the forager to ensure that they are gathering plants safely, ethically and sustainably. Please ensure that you are 100% certain about any plant species before eating it.
This blog post has only briefly touched on the subject of UK seaweeds, and how to use them. We cover the subject in more depth on our Foraging and Wild Foods courses, along with the laws of foraging in the UK, how to safely identify the various species and how to use them.