Eat from the sea for free
Published 24/07/2010 | 05:00
With the nation's foodie mindset already well tuned-in to sustainable living -- thousands of us started allotments this year, and no allotment is complete without its bijou chicken run -- the next stage is to re-learn all the practical skills that our grandparents took for granted.
But what about the seaside? If you're having holidays anywhere on the coast, it could be even more fun if you set off on a mission to find out more about what edible plants grow near and in the sea -- and how much free food you can put on your table.
There are loads of books on 'gastro-foraging' these days, but the daddy of them all is Richard Mabey's 1972 classic Food For Free (currently on amazon.co.uk from as little as €2.94). Mabey covers everything, including coastal plants and those that live 'on the edge' just above the tideline, such as sea spinach and the keenly sought samphire.
And then there is that other world -- mysterious to many of us, but as familiar as the back garden to families living along the coast or on islands, who have grown up with the rhythm of the tides and the briney harvest that is revealed every 12 hours. People such as Sligo GP Prannie Rhatigan, whose beautiful book Irish Seaweed Kitchen (Booklink, €35) is the first comprehensive guide to harvesting, preparing and cooking Irish seaweeds, which she describes as "a living treasure by the shore, more valuable by far than any golden coins that may lie buried beside it in the sand".
Prannie's book is a magnificent celebration of the beauty and riches of the Irish shoreline, with stunning photography, all the practical information you could want, lots of recipes and a light touch -- there's a sense of friends and family milling around, echoing the swirling seaweeds in the tide.
There are 15 varieties of red, brown and green seaweed featured in the book, all detailed in a glossary giving the health benefits, as well as culinary uses. Dried or rehydrated seaweeds can also be eaten as a snack -- duileasc was a favourite generations ago in Ireland, as nori/sleabhac is today in Japan -- or as recipe component.