How can you sneak seaweed into food – and why should you bother?

Now We Know: The Sea Gardener, aka Marie Power, has recipe tips and health advice

Beauty food: some species of seaweed are considered good for our hair, nails and teeth. Photograph: Moment/Getty

Beauty food: some species of seaweed are considered good for our hair, nails and teeth. Photograph: Moment/Getty

 

At a recent low tide on Inishturk, off the coast of Co Mayo, a group of seaweed enthusiasts gathered to learn from Marie Power, also known as the Sea Gardener, as part of the island’s inaugural Wild Atlantic Seafest. On one small rocky shore we spotted luminescent sea lettuce perfect for salads, red-hued carrageen destined for desserts, and bundles of serrated wrack ideal for luxurious baths.

Power is from Waterford, where she has been hosting seaweed workshops since 2007; in 2013 she published The Sea Garden, a guide to seaweed cookery and foraging. So how can one sneak seaweed into food?

Power recommends adding it to food you already like, such as smoothies, and matching the colour to the food, so using green seaweeds with green vegetables, red seaweeds in tomato sauces, and brown seaweeds in stocks, soups and stews. “Carrageen is a gelling and setting agent,” she says, “and is cooked in milk or water and then strained out, so that’s a very subtle way of getting seaweed into mousses and desserts.”

The Sea Gardener also produces dried seaweed blends to add to salads, desserts, stews and soups. Its range, which is available from selected SuperValus on the east coast, also includes a seaweed butter and a mushroom caponata made with kelp, dillisk, sea lettuce and sargassum.

But why should we bother incorporating seaweed into our diets? “Seaweed is a natural wholefood, containing many of the vitamins, minerals and trace elements the body needs for good heart, bone and digestive health, energy and a strong immune system,” Power says. “It’s also an excellent vegan food, containing up to 28 per cent protein, zinc and B12, and is full of anti-oxidants. Seaweeds are called sea vegetables in Japan and form part of the daily diet. Some species are even considered a beauty food – good for shiny hair and strong nails and teeth. Nutrients vary with species, so eating a range of seaweeds is a good idea.”

The Sea Gardener is hosting a forage on Saturday, September 8th, as part of Waterford Harvest Festival. Marie Power is also speaking about the benefits of seaweed at the Vitality Expo at the RDS, in Dublin, on Sunday, September 9th; theseagardener.ie

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