Saturday dawned bright and clear as we awoke early to ensure we made it on time to Fenor, Co Waterford where we were meeting Marie Power aka The Sea Gardener at last!
Marie has been organising seaweed foraging events for years yet we kept missing one another at events. As I live just 7km from a number of beaches I was very keen to learn how to identify edible seaweed and so my partner and I set off at 9.30am from Gorey arriving at the scenic village of Fenor just outside Tramore on the Copper Coast at 11.45am.
Upon rounding the corner we discovered that we were at Fenor Bog! Marie tells me that Fenor means “sunny side of the hill” and indeed this is a lovely bright and well laid out walk perfect as part of a family day out on the Copper Coast.
We had bumped into a few other people, some on their own, some couples and some bff’s who were also here for the event – (I recognise people meeting for Eco Events by now), and then Marie arrived, warmly introducing herself and her hubbie Kevin.
We set off, car pooling where possible, to Kilfarrasy beach just a few minutes down the road where we reconvened to hear Marie explain the importance of first checking the health of the water in any area that one might be considering Seaweed Foraging in.
As Marie led us to the seaweed covered rocks and pools she explained a bit about the history of the area and the beach having spent many happy days in her youth here.
We were first introduced to Sleabhcàn Seaweed, the Atlantic version of Nori, used for making laver bread and rather tasty raw. Marie explained the importance of sustainable harvesting then proceeded to show us how to select a section for cutting and demonstrating same.
Wrack Seaweed followed- ideal for and often used in Seaweed Baths – two fistfuls of this natural beauty ingredient is enough for an average bath – particularly at this time of year as it is rather gelatinous.
One of the more well known, Dilisk aka Dulce was met with oohs of recognition, a red seaweed that makes a tasty salty snack when washed, dried. Kevin piped up that it was particularly nice with a pint of Guinness and some hummus… Our thoughts turned to the tasting we had been promised later 🙂
Incidentally Dulce has apparently 4 times the amount of iron that steak has – with none of the fat! Ideal for use in omelettes, stir fries, risottos and in making bread – nice!
Sea Lettuce is a bright green wide leafed Seaweed found in rock pools and can be eaten raw- as we tasted it we agreed that this was one of our favourites so far.
A curly moss-like Seaweed sitting on the rocks was Carrageen Moss often used in mousses and desserts (and toothpastes due to it’s unique texture) – in fact the ingredient often found in many desserts ( E417 ) is actually Carrageen extract! As it has a 2 year lifecycle it is very important that it is managed sustainably (for eg only using 1/3 of any plant). As there is a copycat seaweed that is not as tasty ( great pipweed) identifying Carrageen correctly is rather important – unlike it’s impersonator (which can be eaten but not very nice) Carrageen Moss has soft tips with individual ‘horn’ type tips per strand.
My fav – Spaghetti Seaweed was next – WOW! Great texture and can be eaten raw BUT do wash it carefully in the seawater (as with all seaweed) then doublecheck it for tiny Blue-rayed limpets that tend to live here!
Marie was keeping an eye on the tide- we had begun our trip out as the tide was going out and soon it was time to head back in – (she also gave us a nice tip on how to identify the watermark of a full tide on beaches that might be new to you)
Before we headed back in Marie showed us some Sweet Kelp – described as Alligator looking. It is important to bear in mind that Kelp has a lot of iodine in it and, dependant on levels, can be too much for the body. This was another contender for Kevins’ ‘crisps of the year’ award incidentally!
There were a few more Seaweeds explained and tasted then we head back to the beach where Kevin had been busy setting up a tasting table for us eager beavers. On the way I ran into my old pal Brendan Mc Carthy of BMC Design.ie who designed my lovely logo! Small world eh? 😉
What a delight the tasting table was, we got to try Maries’ home baked Beetroot & Dilisk Bread (out of the oven that very morning!), Mushroom and Olive Caponata (more please!!), Salsa with Seaweed added and Marie gave us a few tips on creating our very own dried Seaweed flavourings. #NiceOne – We even had…. wait for it.. Chocolate mousse with seaweed – It was GORGEOUS! Healthy Chocolate – what’s not to like?!!
A fantastic few hours in wonderful company and learning so much as you go.
You can also order her protein fueled energy bars and Caponatas online at www.theseagardener.ie but you better hurry – this is one lady who’s star is ascending – fast!