I was recently asked to provide some notes on the taste of different seaweeds as part of an article in the Caterer magazine. It is actually quite a challenge to write down the taste profile of different species, as taste is really quite subjective. The following are my notes on the tastes of some different species that are currently in season on our seashore.
Dabberlocks/Honey ware/ Atlantic wakame – Alaria esculenta – A beautiful kelp, can provide a similar flavour to wakame when used in soups. I’d say when roasted or fried to a crisp a really moreish nice kale flavour, maybe without the bitterness that brassicas can have. It adds a good seasoning when used as a wrap instead of foil to bake fish or roast a joint. In soup has a stronger I suppose spinach/kale flavour but still similar enough to wakame, just thinner and less chewy. Goes a bright rich forest green when cooked. Season it is a spring species, I would say sometimes from winter through to July. It is looking pretty good at the moment.
Sea spaghetti/ thong weed – Himanthalia elongata – Technically it is the reproductive recepticle that is collected and eaten (the seaweed fruit if you like, though the small button it grows from can be eaten as well), sea spaghetti is more closely related to the wracks, like bladder wrack and egg wrack than it is to the kelps. Sea spaghetti is firm though not chewy to the bite (could say al dente) with a very delicate flavour. It is moreish when eaten fresh from the sea, can be slightly sweet but absorbs and enhances other flavours. Might have a slight starchy edge to it. Visually when cooked it looks stunning, a bright vibrant green. It has a very narrow season of mid April through to July.
Dulse/Dillisk/Dilsk – Palmaria palmata – On to the red seaweeds, this is a meaty tasting velvet smooth crunchy thin blade seaweed. Raw it has quite a distinct kind of meaty, some folk think fishy maybe similar to oyster flavour. Fried or crisped up it has a flavour similar to bacon. Many of the red species are rich in iron and dulse is no exception. Might help explain the meaty flavour. Though it can be found in spring (and can be found now), the typical season is late May/June through to end of October, when the blades are at their longest.
Sea lettuce/sea cabbage/gutweed – Ulva spp. namely U. lactuca, U. linza, U. intestinalis – This is a very distinctive green seaweed, some are bright green thin sheets or ribbons, some are thinner slightly gas filled strips. When washed in fresh water and eaten fresh, I think it can have a starch, nitrogenous taste, full, without any sweetness, not bitter as such. When dried it can have a sweeter flavour and I think compliments cream cheese either fresh or dried. The best flavour is when grilled dried, then can get a burnt sweetness that works so well in salads. It is a spring and summer species, pretty abundant at the moment.
There we have it a short tasting guide for some of the species easily found at the moment along our seashores.
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And if you do go down the seashore, always check the tides and keep safe.