Hedgerows, fields and railway embankments are all familiar territory to me. I grew up in the middle of England and often went for walks in the countryside, where my parents would point out various plants to me. This made a good foundation for learning about which wild plants are edible, and how to find them. The seashore, on the other hand, is somewhat more alien territory. Although I've had seaside holidays throughout my life, and have vague memories of different shellfish being pointed out, a rockpool just doesn't have the familiarity of the hedgerow. When I look at seaweed, that's all I see: Seaweed - an undifferentiated, rubbery mass.
I know seaweed can seem unappetising - I read a comment on this somewhere (sorry, lost the source): Since most people's only experience of seaweed is when it's rotting on the beach, it's hardly surprising they don't want to eat it. If the only apples we saw were the ones that had fallen from the tree and were rotting on the ground, we wouldn't be too keen on eating them, either. However, I'm aware that seaweed's edible - indeed, I've eaten some in oriental dishes - and would like to learn more about it. I felt a bit out of my depth, though, and didn't know where to start. Then I saw Wild Pickings' coastal foraging course advertised. That would be the ideal introduction!
I signed up to the course and went to meet Jade at the foot of Consitution Hill, at 1pm as arranged. Unfortunately, my timekeeping is appalling and I hadn't accounted for bank holiday weekend parking, so I ended up parking at the wrong end of the promenade, at ten past one. I tried to call Jade to let her know, but she had no phone signal. In the meantime, she didn't check her list too carefully, thought she had everyone, and set off. This was just as well, as I wouldn't have wanted to hold everyone up.
I decided to try and catch them up. I knew where we were heading, so I hurried up the hill, joined the coast path at the top, and set off at a brisk pace towards Clarach Bay. It was a beautiful day and a very pleasant walk (after I'd recovered from the hill), but no sign of Jade and her group of foraging students. As I looked down at the beach, still no sign of them, but I went down anyway and wandered about a bit, then decided to sit and eat my picnic lunch. At this point I looked at my watch and was surprised to see it was only 2pm. The foraging walk was advertised as a four hour event. Somehow I must have got ahead of them, I thought, and decided to wait. After lunch I pottered about the rock pools a bit...
... then spied a group of hippies looking purposefully into pools. I hurried over to join them and sure enough it was Jade and her students. They'd taken a detour into the woodlands on the way, which is how I'd missed them. Although it was halfway through the afternoon by the time I caught up with them, I still got to learn about seaweeds, which for me, was the whole point of the course. There was also a picnic on the beach, for which Jade had prepared several of the seaweeds (washed/dried/cooked as required) so we could taste the finished foods. She recommended not eating too much at a time, as it can disagree with the digestion, especially if you're not used to it, so most of the foods had just a little seaweed in, almost as seasoning. On the way back she showed me a few of the plants that I'd missed on the way out, which was very kind and an added bonus for me.
I realise I've just written a blog post about how rubbish I am, rather than what I learnt on the course. I'm going to leave that for now, partly because I didn't get many photos (but do look at Jade's beautiful pictures on her facebook page), but mostly because I'd like to introduce the seaweeds one at a time in my Foraged Food Fridays series. I've already written the first of these, it being Friday, so you can read about my first experiments with seaweed here.