Harvesting seaweed

The shores around Bernera are awash with a wide variety of seaweeds

One of the activities we’ve been engaging in since moving to the Outer Hebrides is gathering seaweed and experimenting with using it in all manner of ways. We admit we’re only now starting to truly appreciate the wonder of this saltwater algae.

Did you know that there are around 10,000 species of seaweed in the world, and over 600 different varieties around the British Isles alone? They are classified into three groups – red, green and brown – with the green varieties favouring the shore and the brown types, such as kelp, growing in submerged forests beyond the low tide.

Seaweed is a superfood. What has long been a stable component of the East Asian diet (the Japanese consume 1.6kg of dried seaweed per person per year) is now experiencing a revival in the West. And seaweed not only provides nutrition for humans, it also serves as animal fodder and plant fertiliser, as well as being a crucial ingredient in pharmaceutical and beauty products.

Depending on the individual species, seaweeds are rich in calcium, phosphorous, iodine, magnesium, iron, potassium, sodium, copper and zinc, all of which are essential minerals for healthy bodies. They also contain Vitamin B12, the important element which tends to be lacking in vegan diets, as well as being a valuable source of fibre and protein.

So far, we’ve added seaweed to a carrot cake, to our nettle soup recipe and to our all-seasons quiche. We’ve also made Cornish pasties and seaweed bhajis, as well as substituting sea spaghetti for the more usual pasta in a tasty Italian dish. And one of our favourite snacks is kelp crisps.

Sea spaghetti and kelp hanging up to dry
Further culinary experiments will involve adding seaweed to bread and scones, patés and spreads, curries, burgers, salads and even drinks. And as the nights get shorter and cooler, we’re looking forward to taking long seaweed soaks in our bathtub, to keep our skin moisturised and nourished during the winter months.

If you are fortunate enough to live near a place where you can forage your own seaweed, you may wish to try some of the recipes on The Cornish Seaweed Company website. Alternatively, their Seaweed Cookbook is well worth the investment.

The Seaweed Cookbook, Caroline Warwick-Evans and Tim van Berkel (Lorenz, 2020)

4 thoughts on “Harvesting seaweed”

  1. Thank you guys! I look forward to trying some recipes! How would you recommend preparing the seaweed or does it vary depending on the type?

    1. Thanks Jen. There’s not actually that much preparation involved. You just have to wash it to remove any sand or small creatures and then you can chop it and use it immediately. Or you can dry it and store it for later – either grind the dried seaweed and use it as a seasoning, or place it in cold water for 10 minutes and it’ll rehydrate to its original form.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top