Nutritious, abundant, and free: Why Seaweed should be part of your diet

SEAWEED conjures up stories of a good day at the beach ruined by an encounter with slimy, smelly sea vegetation. Anglers hate seaweed, having to regularly remove it from their hooks and lures…

However, seaweed was once prized by the communities living and working along our 6,500km coastline.

“ In pre-famine Ireland, seaweed was key to ensuring the health and wellbeing of the family, the land and the livestock.

Today, the benefits of seaweed are being appreciated again, with companies making delicious food from the incredible variety of seaweed available from our seas and coast.

Food writer Sally McKenna (far right) has long been a champion of seaweed.

“I always quote the phrase, from pre-famine times in Irish history: ‘potatoes, children, seaweed. That was the order of care for the women of the house. Seaweed was right up there.

“But we’ve forgotten how to use it, and we tend to just blame it for spoiling our swimming.

“Seaweed is not only a great food, it’s medicine and fertiliser, too.

“I’m glad to say, I think there is renewed interest in it, which is positive. It’s important, though, that we see it as something we have to care for. It needs sustainable harvesting,” she said.

Sally’s book, Extreme Greens, is a good source on seaweed.

“The benefits of seaweed are mind-blowing.

“Basically, it is a plant that absorbs all the minerals from the sea. It is full of iodine, selenium and magnesium, for example.

“Most people in the world exist in a state of chronic mineral deficiency, and seaweed reverses that.

“As a kayaker and a food writer, I just put the two together and saw something I could gather on my boat and then cook. Once you get interested in seaweed, it’s a little bit addictive. You want to know more.

“It’s such fun gathering it, understanding how it grows, and then it’s so good for you and so delicious, too,” Sally said.

Sally wants seaweed as part of our everyday diet — adding seaweed to our food is easy, she said.

“To begin with, I would suggest people buy a bag of seaweed salad, where all the seaweed has been processed and chopped. Just hydrate it in a bit of water for a few minutes, and spin dry with a salad spinner.

“Then, add to a salad. Or, buy some seaweed sprinkles, and add a tablespoon here or there to any casserole, stir fry, Bolognese, bread, anything really.

“Many diseases of our world are cured or prevented by the properties in seaweed: it is used in cancer treatment, it detoxifies, and it is full of antioxidants.

“It’s also packed full of vitamins — more vitamin C than orange juice, more calcium than cow’s milk, more antioxidants than raspberries.

“On a basic level, it’s good for your skin and hair, and even for weight loss.

“Populations who eat a lot of seaweed tend to live longer. It’s as simple as that,” Sally said.

Another foodie who enthuses about the value of seaweed is Caroline Crowley, from Irish Seaside Kitchen, on the Sheep’s Head peninsula.

Caroline has created a range of carrageen moss puddings and seaweed granola bars.

“I grew up in the 1970s, eating mam’s homemade carrageen moss pudding, using seaweed harvested by friends and milk from our dairy cows.

“This seaweed has been used by generations of Irish families to ward off colds and coughs, and modern research has confirmed its anti-viral properties.

“What more gems from our food heritage are waiting to be rediscovered?” Caroline asked.

In Cork City, Healthy You Salads have created the perfect way to try seaweed with their range of salads.

Healthy You Salads are participants in the Cork & Kerry Food Forum Showcase, where you can try their seaweed salads, and many other artisan goodies from the region, at Cork City Hall on Monday, June 30.

“I’ve been in the food industry all my working life and I know that the health benefits you get from seaweed are second to none.

“Not only are our salads good for you, they taste great, as well,” & Dermot Twomey, of Healthy You Salads, said.

SEA SPAGHETTI PICNIC TORTILLA

4 eggs, beaten generous
nHandful sea spaghetti
½ onion olive oil
3 medium potatoes, peeled

Cook the sea spaghetti for 5-10 minutes in boiling water. Remove, chop, and add to the eggs. Dice the onion and fry in plenty of olive oil until soft.

Dice the potato and add to the onion. Cook until the potato softens. When the potato is cooked, remove and stir into the beaten eggs. Have the oil in the pan very hot, add the egg mixture and cook until the bottom layer is set, and then either place in a hot oven to set the top, or flip over and cook for a minute more.

ALBACORE TUNA CARBONARA

  1. 1 thickly-cut tuna steak, on the bone
  2. Juice of half a lemon
  3. 1 tablespoon olive oil
  4. 1 handful fresh sea grass, finely chopped or milled in food processor
  5. 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  6. 1 egg, beaten
  7. 50g grated Parmesan
  8. 200ml cream
  9. 100g butter
  10. Soft sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  11. 200g broccoli 500g penne

Poach the tuna steak gently in a mix of water, lemon juice and olive oil, until it is just cooked, and still moist — it is important that the tuna is not dry, so don’t overcook. It should still be pink in the centre. Remove from the poaching liquid and leave to cool.

Pull the fish away from the bone and flake roughly.

In a large bowl, toss in the chopped sea grass, chopped garlic, beaten egg, grated Parmesan, cream, soft butter, flaked tuna and a generous sprinkling of sea salt and black pepper.

In a separate pan, cook the broccoli in heavily-salted boiling water.

Cook the penne until al dente.

Drain the hot pasta and add it immediately to the ingredients in the bowl.

Toss gently until everything is mixed, and the egg cooks in the ambient heat, then add in the hot cooked broccoli and toss together.

Bring the bowl to the table and serve into warmed dishes, with more Parmesan and some good olive oil.

“We want people to come along and experience the wonderful food culture here, and we guarantee to give visitors food for thought in more ways than one.

“Entrance is free and

there will be a cookery demonstration with celebrity chef, Kevin Dundon,” said Joe Burke, Local Enterprise Office, South Cork.

So, the next time you go to the beach, remember, seaweed is good for you.

The Cork & Kerry Food Forum Showcase takes place at Cork City Hall on Monday, June 30. Admission is free and the door opens to the public from 1pm.

 

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