Bringing Back A Staple To The British Isles
These days, seaweed is a food usually associated with Asian, especially Japanese, cuisine — think the nori wrapped around sushi rolls or the wakame floating on top of miso soup. However, the highly nutritious, wild-foraged ingredient was once an equally indispensable ingredient in the food culture of our own isles.
The Welsh mashed it into a paste called laverbread and ate it on toast like vegan caviar. Bourgeois Londoners served a savoury seaweed sauce alongside roast lamb. In Scotland, it was dried into flakes that could be used as a spice or eaten as a snack.
Once a staple of every Scottish pantry, these versatile seasonings fell out of favour some time in the last century. Luckily, there’s at least one company — Mara Seaweed — that’s trying to bring seaweed back in style.
Mara Seaweed is headed up by Alexandra Milne and Fiona Houston, two foraging enthusiasts who met at their children’s Edinburgh school. They continue to harvest seaweed the way foragers have done for centuries: they wait until the spring tide at the full moon, when the water level is the lowest, and wade out to the kelp forest near the shore, where they cut the seaweed with scissors and knives.
It is a highly sustainable method, but it strictly constrains Mara Seaweed’s output. They nevertheless sell their products at prices mere mortals can afford, because they want to bring back seaweed as an accessible, ubiquitous ingredient in British cuisine.
A tin of dried Mara seaweed flakes, pretty enough to display on your countertop, costs £5.99. You can find Mara Seaweed products online or in specialty shops around Scotland.