Last week I undertook my ‘famous’ 1000 yard forage.
It is a test of finding enough to eat a good meal from things you can forage in a 1000 yard / 1 hour walk. Those who know how to forage will probably not see this, depending on habitat and season, very demanding. After all it is just over a half a mile. And an hour is quite a long time to walk this distance. In reality I have found it at times very easy and at others impossible to get myself a decent meal. Coastal foraging is probably one reliable exception. The coast represents such a richness of produce it is no wonder that coastal regions were the first to be colonized. Here, you have three distinct environments to work from – the shallows, the inter-tidal belt and the beach/hinterland behind the high-tide mark. And in these three zones much of Earth’s life is to be found.
Comfortably within the hour I had picked nearly two dozen different, edible plants and a friend had picked a kilo of limpets, three kilos of large mussels, a handful of clams and winkles…oh yes…and caught a sea-bass! He had moved only 200 feet in the hour.
One of the plants (or to be precise, algae) that I tend to ignore is a seaweed called Laver. (Porphyra). I tend to be put off by the 5-10 hour cooking time it needs. But today I picked a bucket-load. Don’t be put off by its ‘plastic-bag’ appearance, the offensive smell it gives off when cooking or that it looks like a cow-pat after you have cooked it! It is in fact really good in taking flavours (a bit like pureed collard greens that go with ‘grits’ – the famous american dish), and is highly nutritious. It has been eaten for centuries, it is the basis of japanese nori, and if used to make breakfast patties, does not have to look like it has been produced from the wrong end of a cow.
- The harvesting is the easy part. Its always in season.
- Give a good rinse – otherwise you will not like the extra texture of sand or grit on your teeth.
- Boil it into submission with a covering of water – depending on the species it can take between 5 and 10 hours. I cheat by either doing it in a pressure cooker for an hour (in two stages – so it does not boil dry) or bring it to the boil and then put it in the warming oven of the Aga for three days and nights and forget about it!
- Take the lid off and reduce the amount of water left so it becomes a thick goo.
- Blend it into a puree.
- Then either season (salt, pepper, butter) and serve as laverbread or:
- Add oatmeal and some whole oats
- Add seasoning (salt, pepper)
- Shape into patties, roll in flour and leave for 10 minutes to absorb the excess fluid
- Fry in oil and butter until crisp
- Serve with eggs and bacon
- Make lots – it freezes well.
This is the hash-brown of the sea!