Great British Food 24.1.19
I’ve always loved the taste of Carrageen seaweed, I find it so comforting and soothing, which is just what you need when you’re feeling under the weather – a nourishing, easily digestible, tasty food or drink. Maybe it’s the 14% Irish in me (see note below), or maybe it’s just that carrageen is delicious and good for you.
Coughs and colds can be an inevitable part of the winter (or any time of year in fact), and it is a time to be gentle with yourself (as gentle as the cooked texture of carrageen even) and get a kick-ass remedy that helps you slip through the day more easily.
This has definitely helped me in those times of need.
It has stopped my tickling cough, and incessant cough, you know the type I mean?
Oh by the way, Irish Moss (Chondrus crispus or Mastocarpus stellatus) is another name for Carrageen and the tradition of using this seaweed in Ireland continues to this day, including for coughs, colds and sore throats. This syrup recipe isn’t actually a syrup, you can sweeten it of course, though its thick, syrupy texture comes from the natural thickener created by cooking carrageen.
All you need to make this is a few simple ingredients and choose your preferred flavourings. For example, you could use;
Though I like this kick-ass version with;
- Black pepper corns
- Root ginger
You could look up the benefits of some of these ingredients and make your own choice (or just look in your cupboard and see what you have to hand). Carrageen is one of the seaweeds I cover on my seaweed foraging courses and give you lots of info of how to identify it, seasons to pick and all the nutritional benefits.
I also talk through the process of drying seaweeds and include additional recipes for carrageen in my seaweeed foraging book and offer a fab Carrageen panna cotta recipe in my first book; Wild Food Foraging in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly. All information that is available to you if you’d like to access it.
Back to the recipe…
Here it is, simple, nourishing and very soothing for a cough, cold or a sore throat.
Carrageen Cough and Cold Syrup
This recipe makes enough for about 4-8 cups worth (depending on the size of your mug or cup). It will keep for up to a week and you can heat a mug at a time to sip through the day. I have 1-2 mugs a day, depending on how severe my cough is and how much relief my body is craving.
- 1200 ml water
- 50 g dried carrageen (Mastocarpus stellatus or Chondrus crispus)
- 2 tsp tumeric powder
- 2.5 cm chunk of root ginger (chopped)
- 2 tsp black peppercorns
- Honey to taste.
Place the carrageen seaweed in a suitably sized saucepan and leave to soak for 15 minutes. Add the other ingredients, except the honey, bring to the boil before lowering the heat and simmering for 15 minutes. The seaweed will break down into smaller pieces and the result for a be a thick, syrup like liquid. Sieve and put the syrup aside to cool. Heat as and when needed, adding honey to taste, keeping the remainder in the fridge for up to a week, covered.
Somethings are worth closing your eyes to drink; think of the sea, get cosy and sip slowly. This is in part because this drink wins in taste, though not for looks. Close your eyes, enjoy, get better and drink.
(Mug of carrageen cough and could flavour, sweetened with honey)
Carrageen, Carrageenan, Irish Moss, Chondrus Crispus, Mastocarpus stellatus
I’m writing this blog in summer – not a time to eat stinging nettles (urtica dioica), despite the Dorset Nettle Eating Competition held every July (read the important information on When Not to Eat Nettles to find out why not). However, nettles have many other virtues beyond…
Here in Cornwall, three-cornered leek (allium triquetrium) is often called wild garlic. I don’t have a problem with that. I enjoy local names, to me, I associate it with locals taking ownership of the plants, land and so-called weeds surrounding them and I see that…
Yesterday I was crunching on frosty kelp, today the seaweeds are limp and wet again, having defrosted in the sun. It’s a lot for seaweeds to cope with, or is it?
In reverence to seaweed, and in celebration of the ‘proper’ snow we had 2 weeks ago (the first time in 10 years here in west cornwall!), I thought I’d write about seaweeds, snow, frost and freezing temperatures.
Do they like it? Can they survive? And, if they can, what are their secrets?
Frost catches a moment in time, and literally, freezes it, the effect is beautiful, though what is the impact for the weeds?
Firstly, seaweeds exist across the world, in vastly varying temperatures and conditions, from 50 metre long kelps, to microscopic organisms to seaweeds that never emerge above the water’s surface, to ones that are exposed to the sun, air and being dried out for more than 6 hours every day.
Each species of seaweed is suited to particular environments. Deep sea seaweeds (these are sub-tidal and never come above the sea’s surface) are used to more constant temperatures, while inter-tidal ones (which get exposed twice a day at low tide) are built to sustain almost extreme changes in temperature.
‘Most seaweeds would be killed if frozen. However high concentrations of tissues salts and organic solutes in the seaweed’s cells lower the freezing points.’
Basically, seaweeds have in-built anti-freeze which protects them from freezing.
In reality, this means that Bladder wrack (top image) can cope with -40° C for months, Egg wrack (above) can go to -20° C and some of the laver species (below) can remain unscathed at temperatures as low as -70°C for 24 hours or so, as well as cope with rather high temperatures in the hot sun.
I feel hot and cold just thinking about it.
My awe of these millions of years old organisms increase with this knowledge. Furthermore, seaweeds also work together to protect each other – they live layered on top of each other, which means just the top layer freezes and the lower seaweeds are kept at a more tolerable temperature.
Similarly, emperor penguins, which survive some of the most harshest conditions on earth huddle together to keep warm. They congregate in groups, sometimes in thousands, and those on the outside of the huddle protect those on the inside, and between them they circulate so no penguin is continuously on the outside. Of course, like seaweeds, penguins body is suited to the environment, yet working together is essential for them to survive extreme temperatures.
Here’s to the beauty of the snow, the amazing science of nature, and a thankful heart for having warm wellies to go and forage for those seaweeds in.
Images courtesy of; loriedarlin.tumblr.com, daily mail, Pam Collins and 500px.com