Seaweed is simply algae that grows on rocky shores around the coast. In England, we are blessed with many types, although it’s best to let the professionals harvest it, as they know what they are doing.
Never let dogs eat seaweed (they like the taste or to play with the fronds) as it can expand in the stomach as it dries and cause an emergency.
Although more widely eaten in Asia, seaweed has many health benefits like iodine (so good for people who don’t eat fish). However, it does have contraindications, like people with thyroid problems. The salty taste is good to replace table salt and vegans in particular like it, as it gives them a ‘fish taste’ without the fish, and good minerals.
The UK coast has around 700 species of seaweed in pretty colours (green, black, pink) but not all are edible. And many you won’t find, unless you go deep-sea diving. Sustainable harvesters give the seaweed ‘a haircut’ to allow it to grow back. You would never got to a forest and dig up a tree, and likewise should not pull seaweed from the rocks, or you will destroy the roots. Galloway Wild Foods writes ‘It’s a rockpool to you, but a universe to a shrimp!’
Most seaweed sold here is as condiments, so it’s good to know what is what, and how to use:
- Sea spaghetti tastes like mild salty asparagus
- Kelp (kombu) has a salty, sweet smoky taste
- Dulse is popular in Irish cuisine, often used to make vegan bacon!
- Sea greens is often called ‘Chinese fried seaweed’
- Irish moss (carrageen) is used to replace gelatine (bones) in cooking, as is seaweed-based agar-agar (used to make vegan jelly). It’s also popular in beauty products.
Where To Buy Sustainable Seaweed
Also see the post on salts from the English seaside.
- The Cornish Seaweed Company offers nice seaweed shaker seasonings in compostable pouches. From sea salt to dulse and kelp, you can also buy salt and pepper grinder sets, sand seasons developed by a Michelin chef. The company also sells organic dulse flakes, which are good sprinkled into curries or in potato and veggie dishes, or in baking.
- Clearspring is a macrobiotic company, so experts in seaweed. This company offers the lot from seaweed seasonings to agar-agar powder and flakes, to make your vegan jelly and ice cream!
- Meridian sells edible organic seaweeds. Harvested on the (French side) of the English channel, this company sells seaweed condiments and seaweed mustard.
Beauty Products Made with Seaweed
Maiiro offers lovely sustainable beauty products, harvested from the seaweeds off Guernsey with its sparkling clean waters and with one of the largest tidal ranges. The range includes organic soaps and lip balms and an anti-blemish cream.
A Tipple Made from Seaweed!
Sea Arch (Devon) is made with seaside botanicals of samphire and sugar kelp, inspired by the glorious coastline. As uplifting as a walk on the beach, it blends juniper with bitter grapefruit, with sweet blood orange and coriander. Packed in recycled cardboard, it’s named after a local rock formation. Samphire grows on marshes (tastes a bit like baby asparagus). Sugar kelp is so-called as it produces a sweet white powder as it dries.
The Seaweed Collector’s Handbook is a beautifully illustrated guide by a Dutch poet and artist, who introduces you to pepper dulse, sea lettuce and bladderwrack – from the Orkney Islands to Japan. Includes simple recipes based around the ‘truffles of the sea’.