Coastal Foraging for Laver / Nori Seaweed

Laver – Porphyra
(In Irish – Sleabhac)

If you’re a fan of foraging food and finding edible treats in the wild, this series is for you. This time we’re back on the coast and foraging for seaweed. I can’t get enough of it! Note that there are a number of porphyra species that are commonly found but they are all used in similar ways that I’ve described in this piece!

Laver

You may know this seaweed as nori, and is often sold in sheets. This popular seaweed is used in many Asian countries and people may be most familiar with it from sushi where it’s seen wrapped around the sushi rice.

Laverbread (Welsh: bara lafwr or bara lawr) is also a traditional Welsh delicacy made from laver.

Best to forage

Note: Red indicates the best months

How to identify laver

Thankfully, laver is very straightforward to identify though it it does tend to resemble black plastic sheets like bin bags!

Where to find laver

It grows in thin layers and sticks to rocks on the upper shore – easy to overlook if you’re not careful.

How to harvest laver

You can lift the seaweed directly from the rocks in sheets or ribbons but cut it, don’t pull it. You want to harvest about 2/3rds of the growing sheets. Harvest sustainably and leave plenty connected to the rock. As with all harvesting, never take more than you need and never clear an area of wild food.

Health Benefits

It’s a wild food that’s rich in vitamins A, B1, B2, B12 and E and even contains more vitamin C than oranges – a handy snack if you’re jumping from rock to rock.

734px-Dried_laver_seaweed
(Dried Laver via Wikimedia Commons/SecretLondon)

How to cook and eat laver

You can eat it raw, and I have on many occasions though it doesn’t really have much flavour. However, it really starts to shine when you dry it and use it as an extra ingredient when it’s processed and it releases its ummani flavour.

One of the best ways to use laver is to dry it and then grind it up. To dry it out so you can rehydrate it later, simply leave it out in the sun, on a window sill on newspaper, or as I learned from Darach Ó Murchú, you can leave it out on your car dashboard!

The dried laver can be used as a unique seasoning for cooking or stocks. Or, if you decide to cook with it, it will really add great flavour to soups, stews and breads.

A warning though, it’s a divil for being covered in sand and grit particles from the sea so you need to give it a mighty wash! This isn’t a quick process and usually takes several washes.

If you aren’t planning to use the cooked laver straightaway consider putting it in small containers or ziplock bags in the freezer.

Recipe: Laverbread patties

Note: Preparing the laver and cooking it does take hours. The below makes about four patties but you can obviously double it, triple it etc. if you want more.

Ingredients

  • 120g Laver
  • 75g Pinhead oatmeal (Flahavan’s do pinhead)
  • Cooking fat (like bacon)
  • Optional: Pepper Dulse, soy sauce

Special equipment:

  • Stick blender or blender for soups!

Method

  1. Wash your laver thoroughly to remove sand and grit. You’ll also need plenty of changes of cold fresh water for this.
  2. When finally cleaned, simmer the laver in a pot of fresh water for about 4 – 6 hours, but be careful not to boil dry.
  3. Blitz the cooked laver with a stick blender and then add pinhead oatmeal. You want it to be thick enough to mould into patties (like burgers) roughly. Before moulding them, consider adding extra flavours such as pepper dulse, soy sauce or any mushroom-type seasoning.
  4. Shallow fry the patties in fat (of your choosing) until it starts to brown and form a crust.
  5. Serve with eggs and bacon if you so wish!

As always, happy foraging and only take as much as you need. Nature will love you for it!

Happy foraging! If you are satisfied you have correctly identified this seaweed, you can submit your sighting to the National Biodiversity Data Centre here.

(Lead image “Porphyra yezoensis” by Anonymous Powered. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 Wikimedia Commons)

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