Farm Ireland

Thursday 19 April 2018

A history worth exploring

There are more than 600 species of seaweed around the Irish coastline, but traditionally less than a dozen have been harvested for food and other uses.

Dulse has been used for centuries as a medicine and food additive, and there are references in 12th-century Irish poetry of monks gathering dulse from the rocks and distributing it among the poor as part of their daily order.

Carrageen, the best-known Irish seaweed, also has medicinal properties and is also an important ingredient in traditional soups and sauces.

Kelps and fucoids were harvested in large amounts over the centuries for use as fertilisers in coastal regions with poor soil conditions.

Kelp also had commercial applications beyond fertiliser and from the 17th century onwards it was harvested and burned in kelp kilns.

The ash remains were then used in pottery and glass, and soap manufacturing.

This mini-industry was also boosted by the discovery in the mid 18th century of iodine in ash, and kelp was harvested for this use until the 1940s.

Maeri has also been harvested since the 17th century for use as a fertiliser on lime-deficient land.

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Irish Independent