Seaweed is an abundant resource that’s about to make a rather impressive comeback into society. An important resource in north Wales for thousands of years, seaweed formed the basis of a healthy diet providing coastal farmers with a business and the welsh people with a sustainable, nutrient rich resource of food for their families. Seaweed is an incredible sustainable resource we have in abundance, along with many other resources we possess in Wales.
In a world were our green vegetables are void from nutrients, seaweed offers a rather convenient way to forage maine goodies for free, that are packed with minerals to replenish your stores. The Seaweeds of north Wales are abundant with hundreds of varieties and dozens of recipes and styles in which you can cook them. From sushi to herb salts, there are many ways you can spice up and add a personal touch to your beach foods with a little bit of foraging, preparation and love.
This article is an into guide to you identifying the various varieties of seaweeds along our foreshore, and a further blog will be written to guide you in foraging, preparing and cooking seaweeds from Anglesey and north Wales shores.
Below are some question is used to get a lot of dating my travels along the shore and from readers ;
Is it legal to seaweed harvesting from UK beaches?
It’s perfectly legal to harvest sustainable amounts of seaweed for self consumption on the shores of the Uk as long as it nots for a commercial purpose. Take small amounts and cut the seaweed from pant rather than ripping from the root. Always pick live seaweed.
Is it safe to eat seaweeds ?
Out of 600+ types in the UK I think 595 are edible, the others will give you a stomach ache. That doesn’t not mean you can go out and juts eat raw seaweed though, it may disagree with you, if your not used to it and don’t prepare it correctly. Where you gather your seaweed from can determine whether you get sick or not. Looks for areas without large movements of boats or busy harbours (pollution contamination) and think about what you want to make and cook the seaweed into, as some of the types are not very tasty! There are maybe 10 types that I would say most people become familiar and comfortable with foraging, picking and cooking. I will go into these in a full seaweed foraging blog, this one is more for identification purposes.
How to cook seaweeds ?
Well this is a big question as each seaweed has its own style that it likes to be cooked. So it varies, greatly. Some like sea lettuce and laver only need to be dried and then chopped up. Others like Wracks or kelps need stewing down for a while and they are used to cook other foods, like black beans (by the Chinese – it speeds up the cooking process). It all goes back to which weed and what you are going to eat with. I like to make herb salts which I then spread across fish which we cook wild. The herb salts are made by drying and blending al load of different types of seaweeds (when thoroughly dry) down, and then adding salt and grinding down again. Smear over your fish (skinless) cook over an open fire..super tasty with some oregano, thyme and rosemary.. Yum.
Is there seaweed farming in north Wales?
As far as I can see there isn’t any seaweed farms in north Wales as of yet, there are a couple of firms in Pembrokeshire who are exploring the use of seaweeds in bio fuels as additives. But the seaweed revolution has not reached our shores as of yet. Many other countries around the world, have extensive farms that cultivate seaweed for culinary purposes. I see a great industry developing in the future on the shores of north Wales in this sense.
Collecting seaweed from a beach in the UK what do I do?
Decide on what variety of seaweed your targeting (Do some research and take a book or guide -see below)
Cut and trim bits of seaweed off the main stem, bag them
Only pick alive seaweed
Take a bit of seaweed from each spot on the rocks, rather than a load from one area
Collect a few differenrt varieties for identification skills
Rinse off throughly
Dry in a green house or on a washing line
Pick areas for foraging with little boat craft and pollution
Pick areas with good tides and waves
Check your tides and weather
Wear suitable clothing and foot wear
Pack an oven the shoulder bag, scissors, gloves, boots and a study guide.
Making Laverbread ?
Ah yes the infamous Welsh dish. A classic age old recipe thats rather easy to make (or so I’m told)- I’ve yet to try in all honesty but a good friend is juts darling currently with his recipe of Laver bread.
My top tips for collecting Laver is to look for big smooth boulders along the foreshore, you will find Laver sitting on them in sheets. Delicately peel it off and place in water. take home to dry out after rising in fresh water. Dry out and follow the recipe by beachfoods here
Sea weed foraging Anglesey?
Well there are 600 seaweeds in total and 99% of them are edible according to one of the foremost experts in the space, the remaining ones will only give yo a tummy ache.
Anglesey is one of the best seaweed foraging locations in the UK. Our waters are clean and full of life which means the seaweeds are full of life. There are seaweeds on every beach to forage on Anglesey, always pick living seaweeds and do not uproot, always trim them with a scissors ..I will do an entire blog on this in the coming weeks. My favourite beaches for my seaweed foraging are on the map below. Each location you get different seaweeds, each foreshore is different and you need to build up and understanding of whats where.. Click the image to get the interactive map.
Coastal foraging Anglesey
For this question its easier for me to isolate Anglesey as s a huge foot print to cover alone with the coastline, when it comes to beach foraging. The beaches of Anglesey can be some of the best foraging areas for seaweed the UK. Sandy beaches with reefs intersecting them can be good, but I also found the rocky outcrops just as good at low water on extreme tides. Look for deep rock pools along the coastlines of Trearddur bay and Porth Daffrach on Holy Island and the reefs at Rhosneigr.
Common varieties of sea weeds found along our coastal shores in north Wales.
Peacock’s tail (Padina pavonica)
It is also known as turkey feather algae as it is less colorful compared to the name given to it.
It can be identified with distinctive features like the frond is almost funnel shaped and the frond thin is with irregular lobed margin. Lower surface has concentric lines of small fine hairs.
It is mostly found in the UK near silt, clay or sandy sediments.
Rainbow wrack (Cystoseira tamariscifolia)
A colorful and distinctive seaweed that appears bright blue underwater but actually is bushy brown.
The main stem is tough and it has spiky looking branchlets.
It can be added as an ingredient in Hijiki Seaweed salad along with some soy sauce and sugar.
Mainly found in the south and western UK, although I have spotted it snorkelling here and there along the north Wales coast.
Sea lettuce (Ulva lactuca)
It is a bright green seaweed that is very common and it is translucent.
As per the name it looks like green and fluffy lettuce leaves but it is very tough.
Chop it and add to soup or stews. You can also use it in salad just like lettuce.
Can be found in all coats of UK.
Mainly found in shallow seas, Oarweed is a type of kelp seaweed. During low tide the fronds may be visible as they grow up to 20m depth.
The fronds are split into long fingers or ribbons and are dark brown green in color.
It is great for thickening and binding food and is used in Chinese and Japanese cuisine soup stock Dashi.
Mainly found in all rocky shores of UK at low water.
Sugar kelp (Saccharina latissimi)
For its size and shape it is also known as ‘devil’s apron’ or ‘Sea belt.’ It is a large ‘kelp’ seaweed. It grows about 20 cm in width and 4 m long.
It is dark brown green in color and the single frond is quite broad with distinctive wavy edges and is crinkly.
Sugar kelp can be powered that can be used in soups, stews and fish fillets as flavoring.
Found among the rocky shores of UK.
Channelled wrack(Pelvetia canaliculata)
Channeled wrack has fronds that curls at the sides giving it a channel like look, thus this name.
It is yellowish brown seaweed that can be mainly recognized by the channels that are formed at its frond.
When powdered in good condition it can be used in stews and soups for adding body and a great flavor. The young tips can be added to stir fries and even pickles.
Found at almost at the top of the rocky shores all over UK.
Spiral wrack (Fucus spiralis)
Can be found just below the high watermark and is olive brown in color. It has the capacity too live out of water for long hours.
The fronds are spirally twisted and has a rib in the middle. The reproductive structures are swollen and yellowish in color. The bladders are warty but not paired.
They are salty and succulent and thus drop them in the pan to enjoy their taste. You can also add them in soup like capers.
Widespread among the rocky shores of UK
Bladder wrack(Fucus vesiculosus)
Bladder wrack is a common seaweed of North Wales that can float upright underwater with the help of their round air bubbles. With this they can absorb nutrients and exchange gas while they are submerged.
This olive brown wrack seaweed can be recognized with its branching fronds filled with air bladders.
The tender young growth tips can be used for cooking soups and stews.
They can be found on all rocky shores of UK in the mid shore line
Purple laver(Porphyra umbilicalis)
Purple laver is a common British seaweed that is smooth in texture and is found clinging to the rocks.
It is a purplish brown seaweed that has very thin fronds that are similar to membrane. The fronds vary in size.
Mainly used for cooking traditional delicacy ‘Lavarbread.’ It can be boiled for hours so that it is rolled and prepared with oats.
Commonly found all over the rocky shores of North wales.
Carrageen is widely used in food industry and this small branching fans are mainly reddish purple in color.
It has branching fronds that are thin. When submerged they may appear iridescent but when they are exposed to bright sunlight it may turn green.
The Carrageen moss is used widely for making cakes and ice creams and other sweet delicacies.
It can be widely found on the south and west coast of Ireland, as well as all over the low water regions of the welsh coast.
Egg wrack (Ascophyllum nodosum)
Mainly known for its egg shaped bladder from which it gets the name. they mainly grow on the sheltered shores.
The fronds of Egg wracks are long, strap like and is yellow brown in color. There are air bubbles at regular interval on the fronds.
The tender younger ones can be fried and even pickled for eating.
They grow well on mid shore of sheltered rocks on the coastal shores of north Wales.
Serrated wrack (Fucus serratus)
Also known as toothed wrack, it is mainly found on the lower shores. It provides shelters to many creatures.
It can be identified mainly with its olive brown fronds that have jagged serrated edges. The fronds are flat and do not have air bladders.
Some like to eat this wrack raw but it is very tender. This foraging seaweed is very tasty when cooked and prepared correctly and can be used as sea vegetable.
Found mainly on the rocky lower shores of welsh coast.
Common eelgrass (Zostera marina)
This is a flowering plant species that lives underwater. They provide habitat for many sea creatures including shellfish, cuttlefish, rays and others.
It has long green leaves that grows mainly underwater in the sea.
It is widely used as herbs for cooking various dishes.
They are mainly found beneath the sea surface and has a patchy distribution all over UK. Commonly spotted I estuaries.
Wireweed (Sargassum muticum)
Is mainly a Japanese seaweed that is growing widely in Britain now.
The fronds are leaf type shaped and are long. This wiry seaweed can grow up to a length of 4m.
It is powdered and used in Soups.
Although a natural habitat of Japan, it is now found widely on the low shores and the pool rocks of UK and along the welsh coast.
Red Seaweed (Rhodophyta)
It is not very common when its comes to seaweed off Anglesey, however they have been spotted in the Menai strait
Well known for its bright red color. The fronds are coral shaped and are quite stiff.
They are rich in nutrients and thus can be used for cooking soup or any other vegetables.
Mainly found at the shores of UK coast.
Also known as grass kelp. Its fronds have bubbles that traps air, thus if detached it can float.
Its inflated tubes are bright green in color. The fonds are unbranched.
Its flavor is great but cannot be eaten raw. Thus, it can be used as flavoring agent in different recipes.
Commonly found on almost all UK coasts.
A closing word on seaweeds of north Wales
There are way more examples of seaweeds in north Wales than I have presented to you here, this is but the tip of the ice berg, however, they are the foremost varieties you will see along he foreshores and the article serves as a guide for you to firstly familiarise yourself with seaweeds before heading out on your forays. The next article on seaweeds will be more based around foraging for them.
In a world where common sense does not seem to be so common, id like to offer a bit of advice before you all hear out to collect your seaweed for eating. Do some research outside of this blog first and foremost, this is but an introductory chapter to the subject and it goes way deeper than a few lines on the internet. Please take a course and spend some time researching the space before getting gang ho on me! I may join up with some other top foraging experts in the north Wales space in the upcoming months. Let me know here if you have in interest in an afternoon course, and ill get back to you. Also pay attention to tides and weather..
Seaweed related books
I’ve complied a list of a load of seaweed related books to read for you all. Ive not got all of these, but had a the space and time to read them all – I would have most of them for sure!
Tan Y Tro Nesaf / Until the next time,
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