Seaweeds in The Scots Kitchen

I enjoyed listening to BBC Radio 4’s Food Programme this morning. Highlighted today was the movement known as the Slow Food Ark of Taste whose quest is to preserve traditional recipes and the cultivation/harvesting of ingredients from around the world. We are fortunate in the UK that over the last century many women have collected and preserved local recipes and lore in early cookbooks.  In Scotland, F. Marian McNeill, a daughter of the manse in Orkney, was one of them and seaweed recipes from her book The Scots Kitchen with Old-Time Recipes’, were read on the program. I reached for my old (1929 first edition!) book to have a look and came across some remarkable recipes and quotes.  Here is an excerpt:

The Scots Kitchen

The Scots Kitchen cookbook

Dishes of Seaweed

Seaweeds are rich in potassium iodide.

The edible seaweeds found on our coasts include Carrageen or Sea-moss, Tang or Redware (Eng. Sea-girdle); Henware or Honeyware (Eng. Bladderlock); Sloke (En.g Laver); Green Laver; and Dulse (Fucus palmatus, Linn.)

Sea-Tangle

In Orkney, children eat the stems of the sea-tangle raw, as they would stalks of rhubarb.

In the Hebrides, Martin tells us, “the blade is eat by the Vulgar Natives”¹. In Barra, the blade is cut away from the fronds and stalk and roasted on both sides over the embers.  It is then placed on a buttery bannock. Children eat it with avidity.

¹ “I had an account of a young man who lost his Appetite, and taken Pills to no purpose, and being advised to boil the Blade of Alga , and drink the infusion boil’d with a little butter, was restored to his former state of health.” Martin Martin: Description of the Western Islands (1703).

Carrying on this tradition, I understand that Fiona Bird of South Uist is following her wonderful book,The Forger’s Kitchen, with a new arrival in April called Seaweed in the Kitchen, promising to restore and revive both the tradition of cooking and eating seaweeds and of saving recipes for future generations.

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