Celtic Trips

I have been very lucky recently to have been invited first, a couple of weeks ago, to Scotland to take a seashore foray, and then to Belfast to present a talk to the British Phycological Society on seaweeds. Both were very exciting though the latter was ta little daunting. Giving a talk about seaweeds to people who know vastly more about seaweeds than I ever will was a frightening prospect. I think I got away with it, but only just.

I presented seaweed from the perspective of a forager and cook. I also explored the issue of why people in Britain (particularily England) do not like seaweed very much. One of the presenters there had done a survey of attitudes but I managed a survey of my own on the way from Exeter Airport to the hotel. The taxi driver in Belfast was very interested and told me of his fondness for Dulse sandwiches; I also learned that it is called (or at least pronounced) Duless in NI. The guy I sat next to on the plane from Exeter to Manchester (I  had to change planes) was also keen and worked for Morrisons - expect to see gutweed and dulse on the fish counter any time soon. Unfortunately the attractive lady who sat next to me on the flight from Manchester to Belfast was not so enthusiastic. She evidently thought that my enquiry "What is your opinion of seaweed?" was the worst chat-up line she had ever heard and buried her face in her book. Unfortunately I then managed to tip an entire half can of beer into my hat which was upside-down on my lap. I was on a plane and could hardly chuck it on the floor or throw it out the window so I drank it from my hat. Anyway, I was spared further embarassment when she suddenly noticed an old friend with an empty seat next to him.

It is always a wonderful experience to forage in a new location, especially when it is the seashore and especially when it is as lovely and productive as the shore near Dunbar in Scotland. I was invited by my charming friend Monica Wilde of Napier's Herbals in Edinburgh. She organised a brilliant event and there were about twenty of us on the beach.

Seashores are extraordinarily varied and this one is exceptional. Including the longish hedgerow walk to the beach we found:

Beech leaves, Elderflowers, Dandelions, Nettles, Dryad's Saddle, Spring Beauty, Chickweed, Ground Elder, Lime leaves, Sea Plantain, Marsh Samphire, Curly Dock, Sea Rocket, Babbington's Orache, Dulse, Carragheen, Laver, Kelp, Gutweed, Winkles, Mussels and much more that has slipped out of memory. Unable to put out a crab pot we had no chance of finding crabs or lobsters. Or so I thought. On our way back from the serious rocks at the sea edge we came across a stranded pot. In it was a Velvet Swimming Crab, a Sea Urchin and two Lobsters. All but the crab were a little undersized so we let them go but it was great to see a pot in action.

The day was very special because of the location, the weather, the company and also because I had, for the first time, the benefit of someone (Monica) who knew the medicinal qualities of what we found. I usually scratch around for something herbally to say about plants but my heart is not entirely in it. Monica takes a serious, scientific approach to the medicinal properties of plants and seems to know just about everything about them.

Many thanks to those who came along.

John Wright: 12th Jul 2013 10:00:00

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Hedgerows, moors, meadows and woods – these hold a veritable feast for the forager. In this hugely informative and witty handbook, John Wright reveals how to spot the free and delicious ingredients to be found in the British countryside, and then how to prepare and cook them. First John touches on the basics for the hedgerow forager, with ...


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What could possibly beat a cool pint of beer down the pub or a lazy glass of wine at your favourite bar? The answer is: home-brewed beer or your very own brand of wine. With this, the twelfth in the River Cottage Handbook series, the inimitable John Wright shows exactly how easy it is to get started. You don't need masses of space to make alcoh...


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