Superfood that has its roots in our ancient past

[Ireland, UK] It is unusual for a product to win a Good Food Award when it does not even taste like its sole ingredient – seaweed – but that is one of the main reasons why locally produced superfood, NORI Bake, is gaining such a following.

For our ancestors, who had little choice but to forage for food in their immediate surroundings, the value of seaweed for health and wellbeing was well known. And while the age of supermarkets and fast food practically killed off the practice for a few generations, it is certainly the buzz word in today’s health food industry.

James Cunningham of NORI Bake, the dried seaweed blend that can be added to such things as bread, porridge, soup, and smoothies, says that 1.5g of the product has the same nutritional benefits as eating 15g of raw seaweed.

“Traditionally, we would have been brought up eating seaweeds in the past, and would have known about its medicinal functions,” he says.

“Dillisk was the ‘beef jerky’ for farmers – when they were out in the fields and sweating, they’d always have a bag of dillisk in their pockets. It would be replacing salts, and was also a great source of protein for them. Seaweed also has a huge satiety factor, so it makes you feel full for longer.”

James and his wife, Deirdre, a nutritionist, are the parents of five children and are also behind the new SMRT health bars, and Mulberry’s Restaurant in Barna village.

It was through the latter that James, a former electrician, started foraging on his own doorstep. He learned that the same species exist in Ireland and the British Isles – although our season may be later because it is colder, and that every place is unique due to its soil.

“The world trend in food now is the Icelandic forage, and the farm-to-fork method – traceability, sustainability – which is very in vogue at the moment.

“We try and buy everything locally – and what’s more local than seaweed, elderflower, wild garlic, and sea aster.

“Most of these you would use in small amounts, but for the things you use in large amounts there’s any amount of them – wild garlic is all over the country, when in season.

“Seaweed is a sea vegetable, and is a seasonal product. The types are different at different times of the year, some months are better than others. At the moment, sea spaghetti is tough and chewy, but a month ago it was perfect.

“Nutritionally, seaweed is like any vegetable, when it gets big it is not as good for you, as the nutrients aren’t as concentrated. So, it is important that seaweed is harvested at optimum times, for nutritional benefits.”

It may come as a surprise to learn that there are thousands of different types of seaweed in Ireland, and that our west coast hosts its own unique variety.

“We have a huge supply of seaweed, coming from a clean ocean with dense nutrition in it to feed the plants,” he adds.

“It’s like planting something in great soil, which has great fertiliser – the Atlantic Ocean is like the soil, and the seaweed absorbs nutrients from that.”

The seaweed is not picked off the beach, however, it has to be pulled fresh from rocks when the tide is out, and different varieties grow at different depths. There are even some types that can only be accessed during low spring tides.


Photo: Deirdre Cunningham and her daughter, Molly. Deirdre, a nutritionist, says their NORI Bake seaweed blend is rich in iodine, which contributes to normal growth of children, among many other benefits. Photo: Peter Harkin.

View original article at: Superfood that has its roots in our ancient past

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