Although Virgil regarded it with disdain, families spending time at the seaside could do worse than consider seaweed. Beyond kids’ fun at the beach, sea veg are useful in the kitchen too.
There’s a soap recipe using the seaweed, carrageen, which you can collect from rocks at low tide, in Let Your Kids Go Wild Outside, and in the book, pressed ocean flowers are used in craft ideas.
Wash up a carrageen cooking saucepan and you’ll feel the softness of the seaweed on your hands. For crafting purposes, seaweeds contain a gel that’s sufficient to ‘glue’ smaller species, naturally.
The artistic work of Edinburgh based Sara Dodd, exhibits the stunning beauty of seaweed.
Kids collecting storm cast seaweed, can identify it and then use the seaweed in beach art or instead of numbers on a sand hopscotch grid. Messing about with seaweed on the beach can be educational, creative and pleasurable.
Seaweed that is still attached to its holdfast (i.e. growing, not storm cast) may be gathered at low tide, washed, dried and stored in an airtight container to use at a later date. Individual species of seaweed taste quite distinct but each guarantees an umami fix.
Picking and cooking fresh seaweed is the coastal dweller and seaside visitor’s treat.
Laver Porphyra spp. is a red seaweed, although, when you spy it on rocks, it may look khaki green or even black. Seaweed is like this – there is still much to learn about it. Laver grows in the intertidal zone and on a breezy day, it will have stuck to the rock almost as firmly as it ‘rock’ neighbour, the limpet.
You’ll have to be eagle eyed to see it, but once you get your eye in and see something that looks rather like pieces of a refuse sack, stuck to the rock, you’ll see the stuff everywhere. It’s similar to nori which is made from the red algae Porphyra spp (P.yezoensis and P. tenera).
Dulse is another red seaweed, and this one often hitches a ride on the brown seaweed, kelp. It is found further out to sea than laver, in the tidal zone that is only exposed at low tide. Some say dulse tastes of bacon and it’s delicious in scones.
In my experience children enjoy the hunter gatherer experience and when they’ve gathered the seaweed, the next step is to get them into the kitchen. Baking scones is an easy route. If you are foraging at a neap or sluggish tide (when the sea doesn’t retreat as far or at high tide, doesn’t bother to cover the splash zone), you’ll still be able to forage laver which is also delicious in these scones – a real seaside treat.
• Marine algae Heaped tablespoon dried and ground dulse
• 225g SR flour
• Tsp baking powder
• 25g cold butter
• 25g hard cheese, grated
• 150ml buttermilk
1 Prepare a baking tray and heat the oven 220ºC Gas 7
2 Sift the flour and baking powder into a bowl. Rub in the butter until the mix looks like breadcrumbs. Add the grated cheese and ground dulse and mix together.
3 Stir in enough buttermilk to make dough. Turn the dough on to a lightly floured surface and gently roll to 3cm thick. (Do not knead scone dough).
4 Use a 6cm cutter to stamp out 8 scones. Put the scones onto the prepared baking tray, glaze with buttermilk and bake in the pre-heated oven for about 10 minutes until the scones are risen and golden.
5 Cool on a wire rack.
• Fiona Bird is the author of Kids’ Kitchen (Barefoot Books 2009), The Forager’s Kitchen (Cico Books 2013) and Seaweed in the Kitchen (Prospect Books 2015). Her latest book is Let Your Kids Go Wild Outside: Creative Ways to Help Children Discover Nature and Enjoy the Great Outdoors.