The world has high hopes for seaweed; it is already widely thought of as the answer to global food shortages and deficiencies. Seaweed’s stigma is fading fast and it is instead being recognised as a valuable source of the nutrients needed for a healthy, balanced, everyday diet.
Many people are unaware of the benefits of adding seafood to their diets and even less people are aware of the many different types of edible seaweed that is available. Although seaweed comes from many corners of the globe, one country that offers an exciting array of types is Ireland. Here are some of the most popular types found on its shorelines, which are being distributed to supermarkets around the world.
Dulse is popular in many countries that enjoy coastline, particularly Ireland. It has a salty, rich nutty taste. It is frequently used in bread making to add flavour and essential vitamins. It is typically dark red or purple in colour and can often be bought dried and ready to eat straight from the pack.
It can also be grilled or steamed and is great served with traditional vegetables such as potatoes, but it mostly eaten as a healthy snack rich in iodine. It can even be eaten straight from the rocks!
Nori is commonly used as an ingredient for sushi, and is typically bought in thin, dark green sheets. It is mild in taste and is used to add a subtle but distinctive flavour to seafood and fish dishes. However, it is also great in stews and soups, and is a brilliant source of protein. It tastes delicious with ginger!
Alaria is a common brown alga that is made from seventeen species of seaweed and is a fantastic source of vitamin B12. It is commonly used as an ingredient in Japanese miso soup; it is responsible for the light, mild and chicken-like flavour in the broth.
However, what many people don’t realise is that alaria is an extremely tasty flavouring that is fantastic in salads. It is often bought dried and crunchy so the texture really compliments that of fresh lettuce and other salad vegetables.
This common green seaweed is mainly found on the coasts of the Alantic and Pacific Oceans and is frequently used in medicines to help prevent against dementia and to increase cognitive awareness. It is high in iron and iodine protein, as well as fuciodan, which stimulates the brain.
It is typically purchased as a dietary supplement. However, bladderwrack can also be eaten raw, gently cooked or – better still – fried. Bladderwrack is also being hailed by scientists as an ageing antidote.
Sea lettuce has a particularly high content of vitamin C, as well as being high in iron and protein. As its name suggests, it is similar in appearance to common salad iceberg lettuce and can be eaten in much the same way.
It is an aromatic vegetable with a fresh taste, and increases by five times in size when soaked. A delicious way to eat is toasting – lightly grilling sea lettuce will bring out its natural aroma, adding a beautiful rustic taste.
Ireland’s seaweed scene
Seaweed is packed full of healthy goodness; essentials such as dietary fibre, amino acids, vitamin A, B, C and E and fatty acids. It is fast being hailed as the ‘food of the future’ by many top chefs, nutritionists and scientists alike. Ireland’s seaweed scene is rife and, as well as exporting seaweed en masse to countries all over the world, it has also recognised the attraction for tourists.
If you are fortunate enough to get the opportunity to go to Ireland on holiday, the country has a lot to offer those keen to find out about the benefits of seaweed. Some companies in Ireland have even started to offer “seaweed holidays”, which incorporate trips to seaweed baths and shorelines where people can collect and cook their own.
Ireland has always been a popular destination for outdoors and adventure holidays, and is a great place for group travel due to its seashores offering an excellent range of group sports and activities. If you are a group travelling independently of a tour operator, it is wise to hire a minibus or MPV from a private company.
People carrier hire and groups of explorers are generally common in Ireland; as such, there are a plethora of hire companies offering a great range of deals to suit all budgets. Travelling privately is a great way to experience Ireland’s seaweed culture at your own freewill; Ireland’s long, beautiful coastline is best explored by car or minibus, so that you have the freedom to visit as many coves and beaches as you like.
Seaweed is an exciting super food. It is versatile, tasty and is becoming increasingly available – both from shops all over the world and direct from the shorelines.
Better still, seaweed is a food source that has, until recently, been relatively undiscovered. That means there is plenty of it out there; not only could it prove a vital addition to daily diets, but it could also prove critical to addressing the world’s impending food crisis.
By Eve Pearce