Foraging for Pepper Dulse: The Truffle of the Sea

Pepper Dulse: Osmundea pinnatifida
(In Irish: Miobhán)

If you’re a fan of foraging food and finding edible treats in the wild, this series is for you.

For those who’ve been following this blog for a while, they may have noticed that I have a love for zombies, speculative and post-apocalyptic scenarios and so, this is how the survival series was born!

This week I’m looking at more seaweeds.

Pepper Dulse

Also known as Osmundea pinnatifida (if you’re fancy), this very small seaweed can be tedious to harvest but perfect if you’re looking for a snack on the go.

The taste? Well, you guessed it, it’s salty and deliciously peppery and can be a great addition to any salad to give it more of a kick.

How to identify pepper dulse

The colour can vary from a dark purplish brown to a musty yellow and it’s mostly found on rocks on the upper to lower-middle shore.

Look for small (1-8cm) flattened brown-red fronds. They look irregularly branched to form a roughly pyramidal outline. It can be yellowish-green when looking from higher up the shore, or a wonderful deep chocolate brown when you head lower down during more colder months.

Lookalikes

I would say, probably the one people may confuse this with is Carrageen (Irish Moss -Chondrus crispus). Thankfully misidentifying it as so is not dangerous you’ll just end up being disappointed as they taste nothing alike.

While I will do a whole other post on carrageen and its fantastic health benefits, the main thing is if you take a bite of what you think is pepper dulse and it tastes of nothing then it’s probably carrageen.

Royal Fern Weed (Osmundea osmunda) is also another possible mistake you could make which is a bit longer than pepper dulse and a bit more scraggly looking but thankfully, no main danger there either as it’s also edible and delicious. If you’re concerned, bring a ruler! Pepper dulse is usually around 1- 8 cm whereas Osmundea osmunda looks the same but grows up to 20 cm.

How to harvest pepper dulse

You need to be very careful to forage this particular seaweed sustainably, so only take a bit of it from a place at a time using scissors. Use the haircut method like what I mentioned before with purslane.

How to cook and eat pepper dulse

It’s called the “The Truffle of the Sea” for a reason. It’s quite the intense taste with a peppery afterkick. Delicious and powerful umami taste – UGH I’m salivating just thinking about it. Just bear in mind that the flavour can be different depending on which Osmundea species you have as well as when / where you decide to forage it but overall, it’s a delight.

Recipe: White fish with fennel and pepper dulse

Ingredients:

  • 1 fennel bulb, sliced
  • 100g haddock or cod or sea bass fillets
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves (minced)
  • Pepper dulse (enough for seasoning)

Method:

  1. Cook the fennel bulb! In a large saucepan, bring about an inch of water to a boil and add sliced fennel and sea salt; cover and boil for 6-10 minutes or until tender. Drain and pat dry with kitchen paper.
  2. In a large nonstick skillet, sauté the fennel in 1 tablespoon of oil until fennel is lightly browned.
  3. Add garlic and remaining oil and cook 1 minute longer.
  4. In the same skillet, cook fillets for 3-4 minutes on each side or until fish flakes easily with a fork.
  5. Season the top of the fish with pepper dulse and serve with the sautéed fennel.

Health benefits

  • Rich in iodine
  • High in magnesium
  • Rich in calcium
  • High in zinc

As good as it tastes though, I’d advise not eating too much of it because people do tend to get a bit queasy if they gobble it down!

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

(Lead image via Akuppa John Wigham on Flickr)

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