Slate Islands Seaweed has really only now put forward it’s first blades (thalli) of growth from the initial tetraspore that settled in November 2015 once I had returned to Easdale Island. With this website now live and having asked for a blog to share posts, I have struggled to think of what about seaweed to write, ever since my first blog post. In this post I am just going to share my observations from generally spending some of my time everyday on the rocky seashore.
I try to everyday or at least everyday of a spring tide to be down on the seashore, whether I am giving a foraging tour or not. It is why I wanted to do edible seashore safari’s or foraging forays as I call them: I simply love being down next to the sea, clambering over rocks, peering into crevices and looking into rock pools. I find the sound of the waves very restful, whatever their energetic state maybe. And I love looking for and finding different true and pseudo seaweeds (the pseudo seaweeds may actually be the red and greens, the rhodophytes and chlorophytes as they can rightly be called sea plants, nice). Through observation I like to test the descriptions found in books about when they are at their best, where they are found e.t.c. In my tours I talk about zonation of the seashore as well as how tidal range and wave exposure affect what seaweeds and sea plants we find. And they often catch me out. For example Alaria esculente or dabberlocks or honeyware (a name I am now going to use) is meant to mainly be in a reproductive phase during the winter, with limited biomass or poor quality thalli. What I have found is indeed some large, slightly tattered looking individuals, but plenty of good, tasty biomass and yes reproductive individuals. It appears to be fine to eat nearly all year round, though admittedly the best biomass I have seen is in July.
It is sea spaghetti (Hilmanthalia elongata) and laver (Porphyra spp) that currently intrigue me. Despite the cold wind and the heavy April showers I have been going out looking for these two common in the right conditions species. Easdale is a small island and where it is located along with the nature of its coastline means it has conditions from high wave exposure and strong tidal currents, to moderately exposed in high tidal currents to sheltered with limited tidal currents. This means it is possible to find most of the 22 FSA recognised edible species plus a few others. The majority of the shoreline is highly exposed with just a bit moderately exposed and a very small area that is sheltered (a very cute remnants of a small raised quarry between two larger quarries). The descriptions often found for sea spaghetti say it likes rocky substrate,growing in rock pools in wave exposed coasts. There is more to sea spaghetti than that. It likes water movement, most certainly and will quite happily grow in sheltered conditions where there is a strong tidal current, as this is a lot of water movement. It does not seem to just grow in rock pools, though yes it can be found often in slight bowls on rocks. I have found it growing on highly exposed rock faces, again where the water movement creates a very distinctive current flow rather than pure impact from breaking waves. But this has been in very specific locations on the island or elsewhere. In an equally exposed spot, I do not find or find very sparsely any sea spaghetti. This isn’t really building up suspense is it? The main factor that to me seems to limit sea spaghetti distribution is the direction the rock is facing. I find sea spag on southern facing or exposed rocks and channels. In Seil sound around Clachan bridge, this is a north-south running sound and near the rocky riffles of this tidal stream, I find beautifully tasty sea spaghetti. On Easdale, I find sea spaghetti on the south facing shore line (roughly at the 220 degree facing angle). On the more northerly facing sides, whether moderately exposed or highly exposed, with sufficient rock pools to favour sea spaghetti, I find none. But that is currently just from my observation of a few sites, I will test it further. Cooking wise, can’t beat flash frying in sesame oil or butter with some garlic (or wild garlic). Proper yummy.
Laver is actually very similar, it is found in distinct patches on the island. I am not sure if there is a pattern apart from it appears to mainly be on either the more west or east facing edge of a rock. Saying that it did seem to like rock seams that run a north west to south east direction and towards the top edge of the rock. On far more north to south running rocks it is found on the sloping eastern face more than on the western steep edge. Or in more abundance at least. In terms of exposure, I am not too sure, though its position on the shoreline towards the high water mark and on more easterly facing rocks would suggest it doesn’t like the full impact of waves and needs some protection from full wave exposure. Cooking wise, well I like to dry it and use it as a seasoning, usually after rinsing in freshwater to try and bring out the sweetness. Otherwise dried straight from the sea it has an intense saltiness to it.
I have babbled on enough for now, I will try and post something again soon.