On the menu for lunch was Mussel Soup with wine and garlic (most more-ish), Wrack Seaweed Coleslaw (crunchy and delicious), Kelp and Avo Salad (who would have thought of frying kelp leaves!) Soft Seaweed and Couscous Salad and Ice Cream with Candied Kelp, the latter a tasty treat with sesame seeds. A gourmet meal el fresco – and the ingredients fresh and free from the ocean.
The occasion was a ‘coastal foraging’ expedition hosted by Roushanna and Gael Gray of Good Hope Nursery, between Scarborough and Cape Point. There were a number of familiar faces – friends we had met at the Fynbos Foraging a few weeks ago. Sheltered from the chilly wind behind a large rock at Scarborough beach, Roushanna and Gail gave us the run-down on the varieties of seaweed that are edible – with a few cautionary notes – while we chomped on scones made with sea lettuce – also very more-ish!
Armed with a pair of scissors and a bag we then foraged in the underwater sea forests in the rock pools for seaweed, everyone taking just a handful of each variety, and mussels -– we had our bait collecting licenses with us. Taking more than we needed was not on – a decision we should all be making every day of our lives to reduce both the gross waste of food and the rape of our oceans.
“Sustainable harvesting ensures regrowth, conservation and abundance for animals, sea life and for ourselves for the next season, therefore only pick seaweed that you see growing prolifically in the area,” said Roushanna. “And cut only 1/3 of the seaweed, leaving the ‘holdfast’ attached to the rock so that the rest of the plant can regrow.”
A rule of thumb is that if you can tear the seaweed with your fingers it is edible raw. Apart from a certain species of kelp, all seaweed is edible.
“Because seaweed is a superfood, full of minerals, vitamins and trace elements, they should be used as ingredients in dishes and not as a main meal,” cautioned Roushanna. “A tablespoon of seaweed has the equivalent amount of potassium as 50 bananas! They are also an amazing source of iodine, so people with thyroid problems should be cautious about the amount of seaweed that they consume.”
Back at Gail’s house we worked in pairs to create our feast. As it was not arduous labour it left time for us to laze in the sun, greenly, allowing a mask of seaweed, honey and fresh aloe vera gel to work miracles on our faces. It was just as well that males were notably absent from the party. There had been a few keen to forage for fynbos but it appears that the hunter-gatherer gender divide operates more strongly when it comes to foraging in rock pools!
Replete after the wholesome meal in convivial company, we took our leave, throwing around ideas for another expedition for gourmet gathering.
Below is a list of the seaweed we picked with some ideas for their use:
Green sea lettuce: Ulva spp – fried, raw in salads or baked in scones
Ulva spp are found in mid to high tide pools and are tolerant of wide temperature and salinity changes. They are early colonisers on denuded rocks.
Purple Laver: Porphyra capensis – Similar to Japanese nori. ‘Laver bread’, fried with oatmeal, is a traditional dish in Wales and the Hebrides. A fast grower, this is the brown slippery thin leafed seaweed growing high on the shore, that becomes like “crumpled black plastic’ when dry.
Tongue weed (looks like brown towels): Gigartina polycarpa . Fry in coconut oil, then salt. It is a source of carrageenan, used as a gel. It was previously known as G.radula.
Red ribbons: Gelidium vittatum. Boiled in water to extract the agar used to make sweet and savoury jellies. It grows on kelp stems (stipes) Previously known as Suhria vittata.
Hanging wrack: Brassicophycus brassicaeformis – delicious and crunchy. We used it in the couscous and in the Coleslaw. Its preferred habitat is wave-pounded rocks.
Kelp or Sea bamboo fronds(leaves): Ecklonia maxima. (It could also have been Split fan kelp Laminaria pallida) – Candied, fried, pickled. Kelp is harvested commercially for use as a gel in food products, toothpaste, paint and ink, to stabilize embankments and waterproof cement and for use as plant food and fertilizers, being rich in mineral salts. Fisherfolk along the Cape coast fill the bulb with seafoods, plug the ends with wet newspaper and cook the ‘food in a bulb’ over a fire.
Orange sheets: Schizymenia apoda . Found on the floors of mid tide pools and gullies. We didn’t use this one, but Roushanna roasts chicken wrapped in it. Worth trying! Previously known as Schizymenia obovata
To find out more about the Fynbos or Coastal Foraging expeditions contact Roushanna on 021 780 9299 or email her at email@example.com
© Viv von der Heyden