Irish Seaweed: From Famine Food to Foraged Delicacy
While the culinary world knows Irish seafood for its Dublin Bay Prawns, Atlantic Cod and beautiful oysters, there is another gem growing in the shallows of Ireland's rugged coastline.
Amongst the rockpools and sea sprayed cliffs, seaweed grows freely, but only recently chefs, farmers and foragers have started paying attention to this long overlooked delicacy.
Ask anyone about Irish cuisine and you’ll no doubt hear something about potatoes however.
First introduced in the 16th Century, this Peruvian import grew well in the fertile Irish soil, and provided a good return on a relatively small crop.
As farmers across the country were pushed onto tiny plots of land with the ballooning population, many families had to survive on whatever they could grow on half an acre.
The poorest among them could just about survive on the potatoes they grew, but when a blight hit in the late 19th century, the combination of reliance on a single crop and disinterest from the British landlords caused a famine that would go on to kill one million people.
In the midst of the potato famine, people could no longer rely on their imported staple, so many turned to foraging the seaweed that their ancestors had been eating for centuries.
Packed full of vitamins and minerals, Seaweed undoubtedly saved the lives of many, but once the famine was over, seaweed was unfairly branded a poor man's food, and fell out of favour in the Irish kitchen.