Just back from Achill where the air is fresh and the sea throws up all kind of stuff for our stomachs and skin. I was hoping to get in touch with an amazing sea forager Annette O’ Leary who I had met two years earlier at the Achill seafood festival. She would be the one to decipher the code for identification of this ancient food.
I was wondering to myself where did she live, I reckoned it would be easy enough to find her, as the place is tiny. Then I came across her booklet on seaweeds ‘Achill’s Hidden Garden’. I will call them sea vegetables to give them their proper title. After all isn’t a weed only a plant in the wrong place?
Anyway Annette told me where to go but I got lost then I rang her and she gave me more instructions and I found my way in the end. The following day she came down herself to the pier at Pollagh and put me and Rebecca my friend straight.
Thats a picture of a bit of kelp drying on a rock. Kelp also known as Kombu is really great stuff! In her book Annette writes “In Japan studies show that putting Kelp into a test tube with cancer cells makes the cancer cells self destruct after 72 hours”. Not bad at all.
In the next photo here we have a selection of sea vegetables . Up on the far right hand side where you put a stamp are two varieties of carrageen, stellatus and Chondus crispus. The former looks like someone has stuck it with a pin several times and the latter is smoother. Both are useful. The bright green on the right hand side is sea lettuce ( a natural source of spirulina) and on the left hand side the green is sea grass , with similar properties to the lettuce. In the bottom left hand side is dulse or Duileasc. the interesting leafy thing in the middle is Atlantic Wakame or Alaria, this stuff is really powerful medicine. There was not that much of it so we picked very few pieces of it.
On that note actually if you are out picking sea vegetables don’t forget your knife or scissors. The plants are living and growing from a root, usually on a rock, and they need some length of stem , at least 6″ in the case of Kombu from the root to continue producing . That way the amount of useful crop will increase the more of us actually harvest the vegetables. Great isn’t it?
The little yellow plant in there is channeled wrack.
This is only a selection of sea vegetables, the next thing I went looking for was samphire. An ancient type of asparagus. Annette pointed me in the right direction. I was so excited, it is a very delicious food. I looked for what it might look like growing on the internet before I left so I felt I had a pretty good idea of what I would find.
Samphire like to grow in salt marshes where fresh water meets salt water, up in the grass. I spotted a few bits which encouraged me that I would soon find great stands of it . I did not. Either I wasn’t in quite the right spot or it had already been heavily harvested. Wow it’s gorgeous stuff though.
Really not going to get away without a knife here. The stalks are mighty tough. Remember when gathering to keep moving, taking a little from each plant, harvest SUSTAINABLY!