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Wales, United Kingdom
In autumn 2010, my husband Ian and I both quit our jobs, sold our house and left the flatlands of the east for the mountains of Wales. Our goal is to create a more self-sufficient lifestyle in a place we actually like living. Whilst Ian will continue to earn some money as a freelancer, my part of the project is to reduce how much we spend by growing and making as much of what we need as possible. The purpose of this blog is to keep friends updated with how the grand project is progressing, but all are welcome here. If you're not a friend already, well perhaps you might become one.

Friday, 25 October 2013

Foraged Food Friday: Laver

My seaside foraging excursions have been marked by a failure to find laver. Even on the coastal foraging course, Jade couldn't relocate the laver she'd spotted a few days earlier. However, she did bring some she'd prepared earlier, so we could try some, and discussed methods of cooking it.

The traditional Welsh way is to make laverbread which takes many hours of boiling, but Jade, like me, doesn't like the idea of what John Wright calls, metaphorically speaking, beating it into submission. Far, far away in Japan, they have a very different way of treating it, as this is the basis for nori, that's wrapped around rice and fish in sushi dishes. Jade herself simply toasts the laver lightly (after careful washing and drying).

Consulting John's River Cottage Handbook to the Edible Seashore, I learned that the seaweeds known as laver are in fact several species of the genus Porphyra, though all edible and tasty. Some of these grow all year round, some in the summer and some in the winter, so there's a chance of finding it at any time of year. On the other hand, they can disappear quite suddenly, which explains why I didn't find any even when I went to a place that someone else had seen it quite recently.

Last Saturday, almost on impulse, I went to the beach at the low spring tide, just after the full moon (OK, maybe not that impulsive, as I had looked up the tides beforehand). I'd more or less given up looking for laver, but there it was, all over the rocks, looking, as I'd been told it would, like black plastic bags. I'm afraid I didn't have a camera with me, so you'll have to make do with the photos I took when I got it home.

Laver (Porphyra umbilicalis, I think)

More laver, on the drying rack, though it's not drying very well at this time of year.

For lunch today, I soaked some breadcrumbs in egg and fried them, and to go with this I took a handful of the not-quite-dry laver and added it to the pan for a few minutes, watching it carefully in case it burnt. It didn't burn, so I got to eat it as a side vegetable...

Cooked laver with eggy bread things, and a dollop of knotweed chutney on the side.

... and it was delicious! John Wright describes laver as, frankly, a food best learned before the age of five, but I disagree. I first met it in the form of nori when I worked in a university that had a lot of Japanese students. Alongside the sandwiches and cornflakes with little portions of milk, the student shop sold sushi. I love it! I've never before felt the urge to make my own sushi, but now I've picked my own laver, I'm tempted to try... or at least a variation on the theme. In the meantime I'd better make sure that harvest is dried properly before the mould gets to it.

Also harvesting this week
Birch boletes (dried and stored)
Blusher mushroom (mostly dried and stored)

Also eating
Courgettes (not mine)
French beans
Rowan jelly
Bramble jelly
Rosehip sweets
Knotweed chutney
Lacto-fermented courgettes

Also drinking
Blackcurrant cordial
Blackberry wine (last year's; not mine)
Elderberry juice (I had some over from the sloe wine, so I stewed them, strained and mixed with blackcurrant for a cold-cure drink. Apparently effective, when combined with...)
Sloe wine (last year's. Rather a lot of this. It's medicinal!)
Heather ale

Foraged food challenge summary page here.

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