Ahead of their Super Seaweed course here at Philleigh Way on November 23rd, we caught up with The Cornish Seaweed Company’s Tim and Caro to find out a little bit more about this sustainable superfood.
Why should we be eating more seaweed?
Because it is the most highly nutritious food on the planet! It is packed with more vitamins and minerals than any other food group – it’s classified as a superfood and is packed full of iron, magnesium, zinc and the 56 trace elements that our bodies need for successful physiological function, holding them in condensed form. And, it’s a local sustainable resource. It’s incredibly good for the environment to eat seaweed compared to land-grown plants. It uses no extra space, it’s already available in the wild, and if it is farmed then it uses a space out at sea so it’s not taking space away from any other activities on land. It doesn’t require any water input, fertiliser, pesticides or any electrical or mechanical input, and it’s a carbon sink so it’s basically just fantastic for the planet. We should all be eating more seaweed! Our product is British so it doesn’t need to be imported – we have an amazing resource on the coast of the UK, we just don’t have a longstanding history in England of eating it like they do in lots of other countries.
What’s the history of seaweed as an ingredient and how is it most commonly used?
It’s been used for thousands and thousands of years all over the world as a medicinal tonic as well as for food. It was written about a really long time ago for skincare; there are writings about Cleopatra using it to maintain youthfulness. In England there isn’t a huge history of eating it, partly because there have historically been issues with ownership of the intertidal zone and the different areas of the beach that have stopped people from collecting it. But most countries that have experienced hardship have developed a relationship with seaweed – Ireland and Scotland’s coastal communities have a strong history of utilising seaweed, Wales does a little bit too. France does, particularly in Brittany. It’s well used, and in South East Asia too, just not so much in England.
What’s the easiest way to incorporate seaweed into cooking?
Treat is as a vegetable! You can steam it, fry it or boil it. Different seaweeds have different properties but some (kelp) can be used instead of lasagna sheets for gluten free pasta for example, sea spaghetti can be used instead of noodles or spaghetti, but otherwise it can be used as a vegetable or a seasoning.
How do you harvest and process seaweed?
We free-dive off a small boat that we keep in Coverack, and we have a license from the Crown Estate to harvest all around there. We free-dive as well as just walking down and collecting it off the coastline. We test all of our seaweed and then bring it back to our units to be processed and dried, then flaked or packed whole. It then gets packed into bags and goes out.
What’s your favourite part of your job?
Definitely free-diving and being out of the office! Diving on a sunny day in crystal clear waters, and swimming up to a couple of metres down under the water is amazing. Sometimes we see really big, humongous barrel jellyfish (they’re harmless) as well as seals – we had two amazing days this year when we were playing with seals for about an hour and a half whilst we were harvesting – they were playing with us and nibbling our fins and that was pretty amazing.
What will you be teaching on the day?
A variety of different things; we’ll be tasting different dried and fresh seaweeds, and explaining how they can be used and incorporated into lots of different dishes. We’ll also share a number of recipes that give a broad view of how to use seaweed, so using a lot of different species. We do a panna cotta using carrageen which, when you simmer it becomes gelatinous – it’s an amazing seaweed to use to set or thicken any dessert or soup. We’ll use sea spaghetti as a pasta substitute; we’ll make a pesto, a soup… a whole range of things.
How can course attendees get hold of and go on to use seaweed after the course?
You can buy it off our website! We do a range of seaweed shakers as well as larger seaweed pouches. The seaweed shakers are like spice shakers that sit in your spice rack. We’ve got a seaweed cookbook that we’ve won some great awards for with 50 different recipes and a foraging guide as well as any information that you might need relating to seaweed. You also buy them in loads of health food stores and delis around the country!
The Cornish Seaweed Company will be sharing their love of this amazing local ingredient at Philleigh Way on 18th April. This full-day course (including lunch) will include five demonstrations and four practical sessions so you’ll leave with the knowledge and skills to start foraging for this amazing ingredient (or you could buy some pre-prepared from The Cornish Seaweed Company…) and incorporating it into your everyday cooking.