Rachel Lambert: forager, author, guide
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Nature-made, wild island seaweed salt

Bleached white gutweed (Ulva intestinalis) seaweed

At last, I had arrived on the Isle of Arran. I stepped onto the beach as soon as I could; made a small fire and pottered around perusing the edible wild plants on the foreshore.

After 17 hours of travel on train, bus, ferry and foot I was a little shell-shocked to say the least. Penzance to Arran is a long way, and the public transport journey convoluted. I arrived as I often do - wanting to orientate myself with my new surroundings - and I did feel new, things, the land, felt new.

It was evening, the tide was out and I wasn't sure of the time. June meant that it stayed light till, well, till later than I was used to in Cornwall.

Rowan in flower on the foreshore of Arran Isle

Spotting edible wild plants around me

Rowan, bittercress, nettles, meadowsweet, elder, dock, sea spinach, sea radish... The familiarity of the plants around me, as always, helped me arrive. As I tottered over the seaweed strewn rocks; bladder wrack, channelled wrack, gutweed. Home from home, sort of.

Bleached white seaweed with wrack tips and rock pool on Arran

Which seaweeds are edible?

All of the seaweeds and land plants I mention and spotted are edible and good for you, if processed in the right way. Teaching about the edible seaweeds is a personal passion of mine. Bladder wrack with the bubbles is highest in iodine. Some seaweed is good for helping lose weight and many are low in fat and have high amounts of vitamins and minerals. These seaweeds grow across the UK, but some of the best spots are in Cornwall, Devon, Wales and Scotland.

Each seaweed has an optimum growing and harvesting season and some seaweeds like to grow higher up on the shore, where the environment suits it best. Here I found channelled wrack (Pelvetia canaliculata) and, well, bleached-white gutweed (Ulva intestinalis).

Why does seaweed bleach white?

I looked, I stared. I wasn't sure if I'd ever seen such a large area of bleached, living seaweed before. Of course it was very near mid-summer, with plenty of light and heat, but a sea (excuse the pun) of white seaweed...

Green seaweeds such as gutweed can start to loose its colour when exposed to light. That's why on my seaweed courses and in my seaweed book I suggest storing dried and edible, green seaweeds like gutweed and sea lettuce in a dark cupboard. After all, we eat with our eyes too and green is such a delicious colour to eat!

So, naturally, on that beach on Arran I didn't eat, I stared. My familiar green seaweed wasn't a beautiful edible green colour, it was white, so I left it and walked away.

Handful of freshly picked green seaweed

How seaweeds protect themselves

Seaweeds have various mechanisms to survive change in temperatures and I've written about this before in; Can seaweeds survive the frost and snow?

Gutweed, the white seaweed I was staring at, is particularly good at navigating extreme changes in temperature and salinity. Suited to growing in rock pools on the upper and middle shore it is rather exposed. Sacrificing the top covering to the sun, it can protect the seaweed growing underneath it, where it remains green and in the water.

However, as the heat rises and the water evaporates, higher levels of salt means seaweed can become permanently damaged and significantly reduce its growing and reproducing ability .

Bleached gutweed seaweed growing over rocks in summer

A nature-made seaweed salt

It's now a year (almost to the day) since I was on Arran, and now here I am next to a rock pool of bleached gutweed seaweed on my local West Cornwall shoreline. As my friends swam in the (not-so) warm sea, I pottered around and decided to harvest some.

Wow! To my surprise the dried, white seaweed was crisp with sea salt. Of course! The water had evaporated and what was left was a combination of dried out seaweed and salt.

Seaweed salt is full of nutrients, including iodine, you can buy it or make your own. I have delicious seaweed salt from Scotland and Cornwall, I couldn't say which is best!

Bleached gutweed seaweed and natural sea salt

How to make sea salt and seaweed salt

Sea salt is normally a time-consuming process, whether by companies such as Cornish Sea Salt or artisan wild foodies such as Pascal Baudar. However, here nature had done it, naturally.

Similarly, making a seaweed salt normally requires drying and crumbling seaweeds and combining them with ready-made sea salt. Not here!

This was nature-made, naturally occurring seaweed salt!

Wow! This was such a wild find!

Bleached gutweed seaweed (Ulva intestinalis) protecting lower layers of the same seaweed

How to use nature-made seaweed salt

I plan to cripsy fry some - think ready-salted seaweed snack and crumble some over a homemade sourdough pizza - recipe to come soon.

I'd love to hear if you've ever found this naturally occurring seaweed salt, used it or made your own.

Want to find out more? I cover so much on my 3 hour seaweed foraging course, there's also 5 seaweeds (and recipes in my wild food foraging book and 16 in my seaweed book!

Bowl of shredded, naturally bleached and salty seaweed

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