IN these uncertain times the only thing we can control is what we put into our bodies. I have brought it to your attention many times that the more diverse our microbiome, the healthier we are.
To get that diversity we need to eat great diversity of plant foods high in nutrients. Wild plants, mushrooms, lichens, algae and seaweeds are commonly found to be higher in nutrients than cultivated varieties and contain unique compounds not found in other foods.
Now I don’t suggest you go and forage your food – it can be quite dangerous if you don’t know what plants are safe for consumption. Lucky for us, there are people passionate about wild plants and they forage for us; Avery and Edward from Thalli Foods (www.thallifoods.ie). This husband and wife team gather and preserve wild plants; all the wonderful offerings of the Wild Atlantic coast and bring them to our markets and interested restaurants. Do contact them via their website and they will find a way to get you some wild magic.
Seaweeds are abundant around our coasts and Edward gave me some great tips for preparing them: “We're at this point where these foods are still being recovered and reintroduced to our culture and we often see two extremes when we come across recipes. There are the "ye olde" recipes: "boil for two hours in two changes of water before mixing with half a pound of melted butter" or something to that effect. Or there is the new-age chef approach to use it in such an obscure and inaccessible way that nobody would ever dare to replicate it. A lot of the 'real' cooking, that is done at home for the mouths of many, has been lost because it was passed on almost exclusively by word of mouth.”
“As for seaweeds, we generally use different ones for different recipes. Dulse, Gutweed and Laver we tend to gently toast in the oven until we can crumble them and then we use them as a seasoning for practically anything. Good on pizza, with pasta, mixed into salad or with rice dishes. Even for cheese on toast. Avery makes a delicious peanut-miso-ginger dressing with toasted nori (for salad, soba noodles, or potatoes!).”
“Obviously, seaweeds really lend themselves to dishes with fish, but they are also excellent with most meats and vegetables. With bladder wrack, we have taken to cooking that with beans. After the beans have been soaked, we simply add a handful of bladder wrack to the beans when we start to cook them. After one or two hours of cooking, the rich mineral flavour is imparted into the beans. We also tend to keep all the liquid instead of straining off so we just add more flavours to the beans and use the whole thing like a soup or reduce it down further to get more dry and sticky beans. This can also be done with kombu or sweet kombu as well and it works beautifully.”