SEAWEEDS OF THE IRISH COAST

Yesterday saw a whole bunch of us interested folks going to explore the arboretum at Ardnagashel in Glengarriff, West Cork, but apart from admiring the wonderful trees we also received lots of information on the seaweeds and lichens along this stretch of coast. Ardnagashel was established by the Hutchins family and it was as part of the Heritage Week of Ireland that these activities took place, in memory of Ellen Hutchins (1785-1815)who was a remarkable Irish Botanist. The talks on the lichens and seaweeds were given by Howard Fox, who is the State Botanist (National Botanic Gardens) and by Maria Cullen. This ‘life’ introduction to the seaweeds and the lichens of the coast of Bantry Bay was so very interesting. a true first introduction in this field for me. Later in the afternoon Madeline Hutchins (Ellen’s great great grand niece) took us through the forested area of this garden and introduced us to some wonderful trees, among them an enormous Japanese Cedar (Cryptomeria japonica). But more about the trees in another blog.  Now to concentrate on the seaweed for a start.  There is so much information that I took in yesterday and research I want to do on this that I feel delighted (because it’s right here at my doorstep), but I am also a bit overwhelmed because so far in my life I have been concentrating on enlarging my knowledge about wild plants, flowers, insects and spiders of Ireland.  Now this is taking it one step further with looking at lichens and seaweeds.  There are no days enough in the week to enjoy all this abundance of nature, and to do the research.  Needless to say I am a huge amateur in all this. (an enthusiastic one).
DSCF2684
So we learnt that there are three types of seaweeds and they are divided by their colour. These are the greens, reds, and brown seaweeds. There are about 10 000 species.  This particular species is called Fucus serratus L.  (Serrated wrack).  This seaweed is used commercially in the manufacturing of cosmetics and seaweed baths.

Photo on left is Knotted or Egg Wrack (Ascophylum nodosum) with another seaweed growing parasitically (it gets its sugar from the Knotted Wrack) on it, it is called Polysiphonia lanosa. Maria Cullen (right photo) told us to nibble some of the parasite and to me it tasted only like….sea water!  Maria gave us great demonstrations of a variety of seaweeds which she picked straight from the sea there.

Duileasc (Palmaria palmata) a red seaweed, and Nori (Porphyra tenera) and another one of the Wrack seaweeds (Fucus) .

Top right photo is a calcareous red seaweed, Howard is here showing and telling us about the Sea Spaghetti (Himanthalia elongata).  The book I am giving attention to on the right is an excellent cookbook with lots of information on the edible seaweeds.  I bought it for my son-in-law once and he was very pleased with it.

DSCF2696The coast of Bantry Bay is rich in seaweeds, and it’s beautiful too.

Nori seaweed, Laver (Porphyra tenera) in the top left photo is paper thin and edible, much used in countries like Japan of course.  The green seaweed is sea lettuce (Ulva lactuca).  The book on seaweeds looks real interesting and essential if seaweed foraging and identification is taken seriously.

DSCF2706Microscopes and strong magnifying glasses were all available for us to have a look through.

More samples laid out for us to check out and learn about, far more than I can identify right now.  Further in the water there were even more types of seaweeds to be seen.  Howard and Mary never tired of explaining to us all the details, it was such an interesting hour spend on a lovely and warm Saturday afternoon in this beautiful part of Ireland.  My brother Johan and his wife Lorraine who were visiting Glengarriff, were among those interested and it was lovely sharing this time with them too.

26 thoughts on “SEAWEEDS OF THE IRISH COAST

    1. Yes I too feel like learning to cook using more seaweeds and that book is a good start I think. Not sure about the seaweeds of New Zealand I would guess some of them would be similar, thought the ones around here would be cold water seaweeds. Thanks for your comment, glad you enjoyed.

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  1. We bought some seaweed to make our own sushi but decided it was an acquired taste. However, a sheet in stew went down fine.

    It’s so exciting to learn about the natural world, isn’t it, though, Agnes? I wish you many happy hours in your research 😊.

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    1. Thank you Helen, yes it’s lovely and interesting, and nature is so abundant in its variety 🙂
      I only tried sushi once myself, long ago, I can only vaguely remember what it tastes like now.

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  2. Lovely photography as always. I’m so pleased you enjoyed your day. From living in Korea and Japan I eat all sorts of seaweeds but I would love that cookbook. When I was very small my grandmother told me her mother said they ate seaweed in Ireland and she was glad they didn’t have to in America. So of course I never learned any Irish ways to use it.

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    1. I agree Angela that it would be a great item to include in our foods. I have heard that in the Irish famine 1847 ish, some people survived because they used seaweeds, many millions died though! (not from eating seaweeds let me add but from starvation) Yes I too would like that book, I must check the price on it 🙂 I am sure that you must have a great tradition of seaweed cooking in your part of the world.

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  3. That was really interesting to read and look at, dear Agnes. I use these Nori sheets quite a lot to do sushi. I know how healthy seaweeds are. We should include them in our foods. Thanks for sharing, have a nice day, regards Mitza

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