Veld and Sea Forage
At low tide of a new moon day, a handful of us went out to the shoreline of Scarborough beach and foraged for wild food. Captained by the insightful Veld & Sea team, we learnt a great many things about the rockpools we used to collect shells in as children.
For a start, there are over 800 types of seaweed on our coastline and only one of them is inedible. It’s called acid weed and we really don’t advise that you Google it because you’re 100% going to get photos of trance parties and people with melting faces. No thanks, Google, you can keep those photos. We also learnt the difference between the three types of mussels you might find – two are local, slow growing and shouldn’t be foraged. The third, Mediterranean Mussels, are invaders who came to our shores stuck to ships (carrying more invaders) and they grow much faster. As with all plant and animal species, the rate of growth is important as it’s very easy for us to wipe out an entire population and eco-system in one fell swoop.
Remaining mindful and knowledgeable is at the core of the foraging experience. The beautiful coastline is abundant with food and we foraged sustainably, focusing only on the seaweed that is prolific in the area and the invasive mussel species, stressing how to treat the wildlife with respect. After our morning on the rocks, we travelled to the Veld and Sea classroom down the road with our foraged food to prepare and create an outdoor lunch banquet.
An easy way to tell the difference between a Mediterranean Mussel and our two local species is to run your thumb along the sharp edge before you pull it off its perch and it’s too late. Our local mussels have a sharp, defined edge and, pro tip, they tend not to be close to the crashing waves. They prefer to stick to the rock pools and calmer waters where they aren’t smashed about. Personally, I don’t blame them, the Mediterranean Mussel is far boxier and its edge is more square and less defined. Overall, they’re a more boxy shape, actually and their shell tends to be less smooth. Trivia: female mussel flesh is pink/orange and the males are pale. Now you know.
Much like when you pick leafy greens from your own garden, seaweed does not like being ripped up by its roots. Although their root systems are not like the classic tendrils which come to mind, each plant is attached to something and did grow in this spot from a spore. To harvest seaweed, you snip off about 2/3 of the leaves and leave the rest to regrow. Of course, the more you leave the better.
What really fascinated us is how each seaweed has its own flavour profile, texture, cooking process and, perhaps most importantly, medicinal values. Sea Lettuce (Ulva lactuca), for example, is a rich source of iodine, aluminium, manganese, magnesium, sodium, potassium, copper and zinc. It is high in iron (15 times more than egg yolk or spinach) and calcium.
It contains 27% protein, made of all 9 essential amino acids including Lysine (which is the amino acid that is typically deficient in most vegetarians). It contains a plethora of essential Vitamins (A, C, E, riboflavin, pantothenic acid, niacin, B12, choline, biotin, folic acid and thiamin) AND is a good source of vitamin B-12.
So now that I’m out of breath, I have a little confession. I hate seaweed. Yes, yes this post ends with me loving it and being pleasantly surprised, but I don’t even eat vegan sushi usually because of the taste of seaweed.
The course culminates in a gathering back at Roushanna Gray’s home. Where we all put our foraged goods together, sort it into types of seaweed and Roushanna goes into a little more detail about each seaweed we’ve gathered. We then split into teams according to which dish we’d most like to make. There’s the option to hop around too, because honestly, nothing about this is ridged.
Tamzyn and I decide to make the team salad. Other dishes include a gorgeous pizza with sea lettuce folded into the dough, ‘normal’ toppings of peppers, tomato, etc and a beautiful tomato sauce cooked with some kelp too. And a generous smattering of chopped up seaweed. I found this the easiest way to experience each type and hardly noticed them. Perceptions shattered. Another team made delicate vegan seaweed sushi with wild-flowers. They were almost too pretty to eat. Tamzyn loves sushi so I don’t think there was ever a question of her enjoying the dish. Her other great love is rice. So, it sounds like a home run to me.
There were fragrant freshly baked breads, dips, oils, dressings, a hummus I could eat with a spoon – but then I’ve never met a hummus I didn’t like – a classic mussel pot and our salad!
Going into the preparation with the idea that I didn’t like seaweed, we actually tried to mask it as much as possible. Again, I was mistaken and once chopped with the other slaw ingredients the various seaweeds didn’t overpower the dish at all. We created a somewhat classic slaw with red cabbage, peppers, every type of seaweed we’d foraged, wild-flowers, orange segments, some land lettuce, a red onion, etc. We chose a citrus dressing with a hearty handful of finely grated ginger as a dressing. Added a little olive oil and voila!
I think it was the best dish, but have to admit a good woodfired pizza does wonders for the soul.
Seaweed is easy to store too. You can keep it in the fridge as you would with any other vegetable, for about a week. Easier still is to dry it or dehydrate it. Once dry, you can store it for up to a year. If you’re still a little sceptical about eating seaweed, Google the benefits. If the taste puts you off, dry it and use it as a seasoning in small doses. Seaweed contains the ever elusive umami flavour, and will elevate your savoury dishes without you needing to add too much.
If you still don’t like it, blend it up and use it as a face and body mask. Your skin is the biggest organ of your body and can absorb nutrients too. It’s too easy to do to miss the opportunity.
We’re so grateful to the Veld & Sea team for instilling this new knowledge in us and for sparking a newfound respect for the foods we can find around us. The power team of chefs, scientists, and nature enthusiasts are able to answer any and all questions you have. The culture of respect for each other and nature is something that is almost tangible and we’re so happy to have experienced it. Recipe
- 1/2 Red Cabbage, thinly shredded/sliced
- 1 Yellow Pepper, sliced
- 1 Red Pepper, sliced
- 1 Large Handful Sea Lettuce, chopped
- 1 Large Handful Wrack Seaweed, finely chopped
- 1 Small Handful Nori, thinly sliced
- 1 Small Handful Sea Grass, roughly chopped
- 1 Small Red Onion, super finely sliced
- 1 1/2 Oranges, sliced into half-moons and skin removed
- 1/2 cup Lettuce Leaves, chopped
- 1/4 cup Basil, chopped
- 1/4 cup Mint, chopped
- Edible Flowers for Garnishing
- 1/4 cup Olive Oil
- 1/2 Orange, juiced and skin discarded
- 1/2 Lemon, juiced and skin discarded
- 1/4 cup Soy Sauce
- 4cm Fresh Ginger, peeled and grated
- Prep all your salad ingredients as listed, making sure to rinse your seaweed thoroughly.
- Place all the ingredients for the salad in a large bowl, excluding the oranges. Using your hands toss to combine.
- Add your dressing ingredients to a small bowl, using a fork whisk all the ingredients to combine.
- Drizzle the dressing over your salad, decorate with orange slices and edible flowers.