Green seaweeds are wonderful added to salads, pizza or to roast in the oven (see my Foraging book and Seaweed book for more ideas and recipes). Like all seaweeds they need careful harvesting to ensure that they continue to grow and flourish.
Here I introduce 3 green seaweeds: how and when to sustainably harvest.
I highly recommend using scissors to harvest seaweeds, as cutting the weed makes it easier to leave the holdfast (seaweed's equivalent of a root) behind, enabling the weed to continue to live. Below are specific guidelines for three green seaweeds that I regularly teach.
Sea Lettuce (Ulva lactuca)
Sea Lettuce starts to grow well from Spring to Summer. Like our leafy land greens, it responds well to light and warmth. They are several types of Sea lettuce, each ones grows to a different length. Make sure the seaweed is attached and cut the upper two thirds, leaving the lower third intact. Harvest between spring and early summer. The plants will be larger towards summer and the vitamin C with be higher then too.
Gutweed/Sea Greens (Ulva intestinalis)
Gutweed also has many different types but is categorised as long, single, unbranched strands, compared to the sheets of sea lettuce. Harvest at a similar time to sea lettuce, and cut in small patches where it grows profusely.
Remember to pick in rocky pools rather than sandy beaches. As each of those strands is actually a tube and if sand gets in the tubes it won't get out easily!
Velvet Horn/Green Sponge Fingers (Codium fragile)
There are two sub-species of Velvet horn, and I rarely come across it in vast amounts. Never take more than half of any one plant, and harvest scantily, leaving most of plant intact. Harvest between the Spring and Autumn.
Find out about this and so much more on my regular seaweed foraging courses.
(Organic flour, gutweed (Ulva intestinalis) and dulse (Palmaria palmata))
Picnics, according to BBC food, require planning; as much as I agree that some planning is needed, I also want it all - good homemade food and little fuss. With our erratic UK weather, sometimes an impromptu picnic is a great adventure too, though if I can, I like to avoid shop-bought convenience food. Instead, I have a few standard homemade go-to goodies that I rely on for picnics.
Homemade bread* feels like a real treat, and it is so easy to make! Apart from 10 minutes preparation, you just need time to allow your bread to rise, then bake. Despite Summer being the time of lots of fresh fruit, salads and veg, I find I'm often prioritising outdoor adventures over thought-through meals, so adding a handful of dried or fresh seaweed into bread seems an easy way to up my nutrition and keep taking care of myself.
(Making seaweed bread)
Best seaweeds to add into bread
Seaweed bread is tasty and good for you. Some of the seaweeds suitable for bread are; sea lettuce, gutweed and dulse. You can use a small handful of dried or fresh seaweed, chopped. You can also add a teaspoon of other dried and ground seaweeds such as; wireweed, bladder wrack, egg wrack or feel free to experiment with others. I have a sea lettuce bread recipe in my wild food foraging book. and this is the basic recipe I use for all my bread, unless I'm making seaweed foccacia!
The other couple of quick and easy wild food dishes are my recipes for; Rock Samphire Salsa Verde, which you can make in 10 minutes, and my favourite Carrot, Ginger and Seaweed Salad made in 10 minutes and both these dishes will keep for a few days in the fridge too. Topped with Elderflower cordial - your picnic can suddenly feel rather wild and special as well as quick and fuss-free.
And of course, if the weather turns you can still enjoy all this wonderful food indoors.
Picnic tips for always having seaweed available
*When I make bread, I tend to make a couple of large loaves at once then slice and freeze what I can't use within two days, this way I have seaweed bread available all the time. Easy!
(Dulse and gutweed seaweeds in a Cornish rock pool ready to be sustainably harvested for seaweed bread)
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 as a good thing.
(Allium triquetrium has long, thin leaves and stems which are triangular shaped and drooping white flowers)
As I live in Cornwall, I use 'our' wild garlic a lot, though you could use the true wild garlic, ransoms (allium ursinum) instead. Actually, I suggest you use the wild version that is easily available to you, and don't worry about the rest.
For the last two years, I've had a quick chat with the Cornwall based chef, author and multi-restaurant owner Nathan Outlaw when he's come down to Penzance to do a book signing of his latest book at the brilliant The Edge of the World Bookshop. An immensly energetic though laid-back, hard-working, kind and talented chef he's always a pleasure to talk wild food with.
I now have Nathan's Everyday Seafood Book in my, very small, cookbook shelf and ocassionally flick through it for inspiration and recipe ideas. It's always the Sea Lettuce (Ulva lactuca) oil that stands out to me, partly because of its brilliant colour, of course because it uses wild food, and also because it is very simple and easy to make.
(Sea lettuce seaweed, ulva lactuca, looks as you would imagine - like lettuce)
I decided to have a go at my own version - because I'm me, and I like to tweak things, and because, well you can find Nathan Outlaw's seaweed oil recipe in his book (see link above), so I thought I'd offer something else here.
Flavouring an oil is a great way to capture a wild aroma long after its season has passed. This oil will continue to mature once in your store cupboard and I suggest using it within 3 months.
Both three-cornered leek (aka wild garlic) and sea lettuce seaweed are rich in nutrients and health giving properties, including vitamin C, B vitamins, iron and immune boosting goodness. Spring is the best time for wild garlic and sea lettuce is good in spring or summer, or used dried. Below I use rapeseed oil - I had it in my cupboard, and hey, it's local too!
Wild Garlic and Seaweed Oil Recipe
Drizzle over soup, bread, cheese on toast, use it to cook spanish omelettes or to fry eggs in. Basically you can use it raw or in cooking.
400ml cold-pressed rapeseed oil
1 handful sea lettuce, fresh or rehydrated from dried
Small handful of three-cornered leek
Drop the sea lettuce and three-cornered leek into boiling water for 30 seconds, remove and plunge immediately into ice cold water. Squeeze out all the excess liquid and blend with the oil. Store in a dark cupboard and use within 3 months.
I'm back on the Isles of Scilly, having survived the boat crossing once again (thank goodness my strategy is still working) and am now above board again and enjoying these beautiful islands again. It's Walk Scilly Festival time.
Having led an enthusiastic group of Scilly walkers (not to be taken literally, in the funny sense of the word), I deliver the group to my collaborator for this event; Euan Rodger, the owner and chef at Tanglewood Kitchen (at the back of the Post Office). I love working with Euan - he pre-prepares delicious dishes such as a rich, creamy sauce, and quickly cooks up fish while salivating foragers watch. I deliver a basket of wild ingredients that we've collected on the walk and Euan improvises (okay, we have a vague plan beforehand) and voila. On this autumnal gathering, the basket contains wild fennel seeds, alexander seeds and yarrow leaves to finish off his dish. Wooden forks are handed round and well all dive in. Not a morsel is left, and I think that says more than words.