Scottish Seabird Centre Exhibition

Purple Porphyra print

Purple Porphyra print

The Scottish Seabird Centre in North Berwick was recently awarded status as the National Marine Centre for Scotland expanding their remit to include wider conservation and education activities exploring marine habitats and wildlife. I was invited to share my seaweed pressings in an exhibition held in their main cafe and gallery celebrating the wider shoreline they inhabit.

The pressings and prints on show were all gathered from the beaches extending either side of the Seabird Centre and from further along the West Beach.  The exhibition runs until 26 Jan 2016.  Prices range from £125 to £350.

Edge of the Sea Exhibition opens

Sara at Edge of the Sea exhibiton

Sara at Edge of the Sea exhibition

Edge of the Sea exhibition of my original seaweed pressings and new giclee prints opens 3rd Oct and runs until the 30th Oct at Hangar Art Gallery, Fenton Barns, North Berwick, EH39 5BW (tel: 01620 850 946).

I will be at the gallery today, Sat, 3rd Oct from 12 noon – 4pm. Stop by for a glass of wine and see the show!

Edge of the Sea

Edge of the Sea inviteNew exhibition going up this week – my first selling one – at Hangar Framing & Art, Fenton Barns, North Berwick, EH39 5BW.

Show will include original pressings and new giclee prints of lovely lacy Rhodophyta and some big green kelps.

Please come along and join me at the opening on Sat, 3rd Oct, 12-4pm to see the show and have a glass of wine.

Pools of light

Fluorescent rock poolOver the last few weeks I have been a regular visitor to the great stretches of basalt rock that reach out into Milsey Bay in the east of the town, and to the beach by the 3rd hole in the west, to watch the ebb of Winter flow into Spring. There are a few favourite tide pools that draw me in especially on the days of lowest tides with their beauty and intensity of light and life. This is not a collecting time of year, so I take photos, Some I have made into banners for this site, but thought I might post them here in their original forms.

Red sandstone rock pool

Red sandstone rock pool

Opposite the Marine Hotel, in the low rocky outcrops of the Hummell Ridges, are shallow pools with pink bottoms of exquisite cerise Lithothamnion and rougy Hildenbrandia. Lining these pools are blankets of Laminaria and Fucus, their great floppy fronds forming a protective ridge at the each poolside’s edge, hiding within them a myriad of seaweeds, snails, crabs, shrimp, shells and sand. On the east side, between the Seabird Centre and the Yellow Man, are the dark milky bore holes of the Milsey Rocks.

Irredescent Carragheeen These surprisingly deep craters are home to copses of kelps at one end, and crevices of purple corallines and magenta rhodymenia at the other, sheltering in and out of the orange sandstone ledges. Here the contrast between the red sandstone and greenstone is acute, borders merged by splashes of crustose algae, with iridescent blue Carrageenans sparkling in the first rays of Spring.

Sea Flora Exhibition open!

The Gateway Gallery is now awash with seaweeds!

Located on the first floor of the John Hope Gateway centre of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, the exhibition is free and open from 10am – 5:45pm daily, until 15th June 2014.

Sea Flora table 1Gathered from the East Lothian coast between Gullane Bents and Tyninghame Beach, the sea flora pressings of Rhodophyta (reds), Chlorophyta (greens) and Phaeophyta (browns) are displayed primarily by colour along with some wonderful Victorian books on collecting seaweeds. The larger entrance display holds bolder specimens from wracks and kelps to edible laver and sea lettuce.

See my Gallery page for more details or go the ‘What’s On’ pages of the RBGE website.

Sea Flora table 2




Eat your greens!

Sea lettuce and LaverUlva latuca, commonly known as “sea lettuce” grows in gentle profusion at the mid-littoral zone of our northern shores where it can find protected, tide pools, crevices or low-lying rocky outcrops to gain a holdfast protected from the force of tidal surges, but not too far from sunlight. Ulva will settle in quite well with its cousin Laver (Porphyra umbilicalis) – who is much more prolific in its range and spread – and are happy to populate the lower parts of rocky stretches that are home to a variety of wracks (Fucus vesiculosus, F. serratus and F. spiralis). They will live quite happily cheek by jowl with the Enteromorphas (Gutweed), hiding in their long strands along the water’s edge.Enteromorpha underwater

A brilliant bright green, translucent in water, a bed of Ulva latuca will resemble waving leaves of young lettuce underwater but are rather gooey when on dry land.  Highly nutritious (full of natural protein, potassium, magnesium, iron, iodine, zinc and vitamins) they have been used for centuries to augment the diet of poorer coastal dwellers, particularly in the ‘lean’ months between Feb and May, and are still one of nature’s  natural “rescue remedies”; growing rapidly in the Spring and providing a wealth of essential micronutrients (Omega 3 fatty acids too) that we all lack in northern climes. Sea lettuce can be eaten raw or lightly cooked (unlike Laver which needs a protracted period of boiling) by steaming or frying, and is often dried and then crumbled onto salads.

Palmaria palmataDulse – although decidedly not green, Dulse (Palmaria palmata) is an ancient foodstuff of the Northern British Isles and a staple ingredient in many traditional Scots and Irish dishes. Today it is sold in health food shops, neatly chopped and dried to be tossed onto salads, vegetables, or mixed into stews.  Highly nutritious, and tasting vaguely of Marmite, it is an excellent, potent source of vitamins, minerals and iron and historically recommended to those suffering from nutritional deficiencies or recovering from illness. I was delighted to see it being used as an alternative to salt in a pizza dough recipe for healthy school eating programmes.Laver covered rock

Laver – The Welsh equivalent, Laver bread is still made and consumed in coastal and mining communities along the shores of Wales.  Washed, chopped, boiled and moulded into ‘cakes’ it is then traditionally fried and served at  breakfast as accompaniment to bacon and eggs. Not surprisingly, it has a very high vitamin D content that helps to mitigate against long hours spent underground with no or low exposure to the sun’s rays, in addition to being a plentiful source of protein, as well as vitamins B, B2, A and C.  Japanese, Korean and Chinese cuisines use Laver (Porphyra yezoensis), known as nori or gim, to wrap sushi in, and to flavour soups and stews, drawing on the huge coastal sea farms for their harvests of both it, Ulva prolifera  and Sugar kelp.

Kelp  – The huge stalks of Laminaria that range across the lowest strands of the tidal zones have long been used by harvesters and farmers to augment meagre diets and incomes.  Kelp has been harvested to extract agar (used for centuries as a gelling agent) – formerly harvested off the shores of Scotland, but now harvested for that purpose in Japan and Iceland. Today kelp is still sold in capsule form to help combat obesity – an ancient diet pill. It is kelp that is used to create the gold standard of luxurious skin cream, Crème de la Mer, developed by creator Dr Max Huber who saw Pacific Coast fishermen applying it to sunburn.  I understand that it is also used in Burn Units of A&E hospitals, where it is laid directly onto affected skin, just underneath bandaging, to promote healing of scarred and burnt tissue.

SaccharinaSugar kelp (Saccharina latissima) and “Long feathers” (Alaria esculenta) were traditionally collected from the shores of the Firth of Forth and sold in Edinburgh by merchants in street markets. These two seaweeds are still cultivated and harvested by coastal communities and served as a regular staple in diets of China, Iceland and even parts of Maine and Connecticut.

More recently, scientists at the University of Birmingham have been using seaweed in tandem with other natural products to create gel-like ingredients that make you feel fuller, longer – molecular gastronomy.Alaria esculenta

It makes me wonder that so many easily accessible sources of vitamins, minerals and health promoting substances are so little known by today’s populations.  What a bounty we have at our shores just beyond the reach of dry land!