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Foraging for food from the wild is fun, enjoyable and healthy. Whether it’s a family outing in the countryside – or on the seashore - or as part of a wild survival adventure, foraging connects us to the source of our food and to the rest of the natural world. It opens up new taste experiences and perhaps satisfies a need for exploration and experimentation. It can do lots of good things, not least, developing skills in self-sufficiency.
If you’re new to foraging in the wild, here are a few tips to help you
Be sure about what you are picking to eat: Go with a knowledgeable guide who can differentiate between what is safe to eat and what is not. Use expert literature. Be very cautious about using unauthorised web sources. Use a good guidebook with quality images to help differentiate between what may be an edible plant and a similar-looking toxic one.
Plants and seaweeds, absorb gases and nutrients from their immediate environment - good and bad. So avoid foraging near built-up areas, near marinas and ports, on roadsides with alot of traffic – the toxins from car exhaust in particular build up in plants, or beaches where cars are driven, where dogs are walked, where there are outfall pipes, polluted or nutrient-enriched streams. Check the water quality of beaches with the local authority if unsure.
Don’t forage for seaweed alone. It is easy to slip on rocks/get caught by tides/lose phone signal; rocky shores are exposed to weather, all of these factors can turn a minor slip into a major accident. All avoidable if you’re with another person.
Check tides and weather forecast before you go out. The safest time to forage for seaweed is an hour or so before low tide. The aim is to be off the rocks before the tide turns.
And wait for a calm, dry day. Very windy days are not good and rain makes for even more slippy rocks.
Tide times for your area can be found at pocketsizetides.com. Weather forecasts from meteireann.ie.
Keep an eye on our facebook page (the sea garden) for updates on good times to forage each season.
Sustainability is key here. Just take a little here and there. Use a scissors or sharp knife to cut a piece from a seaweed , leaving the holdfast and at least 50% of the plant intact. Pulling seaweed from the rocks destroys the plant and leaves nothing to re-grow, leaves nothing for the marine invertebrates (such as limpets, periwinkles, small fish etc.) to feed on or shelter under and leaves nothing for other foragers. Seaweed is full of nutrients – vitamins, minerals, trace elements – just a little in the diet goes a long way.
Please, let’s not make the same mistake with seaweed that was made with fish and other resources...over-consumption.
St Patrick’s Day, March 17th is traditionally the first day of the seaweed picking season. Sleabhcan is one of the first seaweeds to start growing and the young leaves are delicious in sweet and savoury foods.