coastal foraging


Coastal Foraging for Beginners

Grab your bucket and spade, we are ready to explore the coastlines, from cockles and mussels alive alive oh…Coastal treasures are waiting to be discovered! Are you ready to embark on a culinary adventure like no other? Imagine strolling along the Atlantic coastline, discovering the freshest foods just waiting to be plucked from nature’s pantry.

Coastal foraging, the age-old practice of gathering food from the shores, is a truly captivating experience that will tantalize your taste buds and leave you yearning for more.

What makes coastal foraging so extraordinary is that the most delicious sources of vitamins and calcium are right at your toes, hiding in plain sight you might say. Oh course what you will find varies depending on where you are in the world but once you are close to the waters edge, there is usually something edible hanging about. From succulent clams to plump mussels and an assortment of seaweeds as far as the eye can see, the coastal treats are truly inspiring for any budding chefs in the world. But here’s the best part: the seafood you gather will be remarkably fresher than anything you could ever find at a mundane supermarket.

As you venture out into the sea air, you’ll soon discover that coastal foraging is not just a feast for the palate, but also a nourishing experience for your well-being. We like to think of all foraging activities as a mindful way to spend some time outdoors but embracing the sea breeze to pick some mouthwatering wild foods is extra special.

We like to dip into enchanting rock pools, walk alongside the dramatic cliffs, and search for sea buckthorn in the sand dunes, during low tide.

What wild food will you find by the coast?

Popular shellfish to forage for by the sea. The below shellfish can we found either on or beside the beach. Winkles and mussels on the rocks, Cockles and Clams in the sand.

  • Cockles – Rinse through with fresh water
  • Winkles and Periwinkles – Rinse through with fresh water
  • Mussels – Using a knife, scrape off all the barnacles, rinse twice with fresh water
  • Clams – Rinse with fresh water


Over 700 species of seaweed can be found in Irish/UK waters. Seaweeds aka marine algae, can be a mixture of green, brown and red in color. They exist is salty, hostile spaces like the coast lines of Europe. Many will attach themselves to rocks along the shore. The most popular edible seaweeds include Laver (AKA Nori), Dulse, Sea Lettuce, Carrageen Moss, Sea Spaghetti, Sugar Kelp, BladderWrack and Pepper Dulse. Our advice is always to go foraging with elders or experts who have experience foraging for the seaweeds and shellfish available.

NOTE: Never pull all of the seaweeds off the rocks. This is similar to uprooting a whole plant. Use a sharp foraging knife or scissors to cut off small pieces, allowing the seaweed room for regrowth.

Tips for Seaweed Foraging

Choose live seaweeds and avoid decomposing seaweeds – Generally, it’s recommended to gather live seaweeds that are still attached to rocks. However, after a big storm, healthy fresh seaweeds from deeper waters may wash up, and you can use your judgment to determine their quality. Stay clear of anything that smell a funny. Decomposing seaweeds stink!

Be mindful of pollution – Consider the water quality and pollution levels in the area where you plan to forage in. Avoid picking from stagnant water, rockpools that aren’t regularly refreshed, busy harbors, fishing ports, and similar areas. Check with the Environmental Protection Agency for unbiased information on water quality.

Beware of toxic algae blooms: During summer, toxic algae blooms can occur, posing a health risk. Stay informed about any reported toxic algae blooms in the area you intend to forage. Exercise caution and avoid seaweed harvesting during such times.

Check for background radiation: While rare, it’s prudent to be aware of the possibility of background radiation in coastal areas. Stay informed about any advisories or reports regarding radiation levels. The Environmental Protection Agency can provide relevant information on this matter as well.

Be cautious of slippery rocks and tides: Seaweed foraging often involves navigating slippery rocks and dealing with unpredictable tides. Prioritize your safety by staying alert and following these precautions:

Consult tide tables before heading out to ensure you’re aware of the tide movements and timings.

If uncertain, walk between rocks rather than on top of them to minimize the risk of slipping.

Look for non-slip barnacles or other stable surfaces to support your footing.

Always sheath your knife or scissors when moving to prevent accidental injuries.

Health benefits of eating seaweeds

Seaweed offers a myriad of health benefits. Its high iodine content promotes optimal thyroid function, essential for hormone regulation. This prevents various symptoms associated with an underactive thyroid, such as fatigue, muscle weakness, and high cholesterol. Seaweed is a rich source of vitamins A and C, surpassing broccoli in calcium levels, and can be beneficial for treating osteoarthritis.

It boasts potent antioxidants that combat inflammation and help fight ailments like cancer, asthma, and obesity. Additionally, seaweed aids in regulating estrogen and estradiol levels, reducing the risk of breast cancer. With its high protein content, comparable to legumes, seaweed provides a valuable protein source. Lastly, its soluble fiber content supports healthy digestion by forming a gel in the gut, slowing down digestion, and inhibiting the absorption of sugars and cholesterol.

What do you need to bring? Equipment for coastal foraging adventures

While the allure of bare-handed foraging may seem tempting, it’s essential to prioritize sustainability and environmental preservation. Before you set off on your seaside escapade, ensure you have these vital coastal foraging tools on hand. What you need to bring will depend on the time of year you are foraging and the weather conditions. In Ireland, a light raincoat that you can fold away when the sun shines is always handy to have.

  1. A Knife – A knife that you are familiar with is indispensable when dealing with stubborn mussels and limpets clinging to rocks.
  2. Scissors – Foraging seaweed sustainably requires finesse. Instead of uprooting it by the holdfast, opt for a pair of scissors to trim no more than two-thirds of the leaves. By leaving the holdfast intact, you allow the seaweed to regrow, ensuring a bountiful harvest in the future and providing ample sustenance for marine wildlife.
  3. Spade – When hunting for hidden treasures like scallops and cockles nestled beneath sand or mudflats, a trusty spade becomes your ally. This tool allows you to dig them up with ease and precision.
  4. Rake – Unearthing succulent cockles without damaging them requires a gentler touch. A rake proves invaluable in shifting sand effortlessly, revealing these delectable morsels while preserving their delicate shells.
  5. Basket Preserving the integrity of your harvest is paramount. Stow your foraged plants in a sturdy basket to prevent crushing or squashing. The breathability of a basket also ensures optimal airflow, keeping your bounty fresh and vibrant.
  6. String Bag As you delve into the briny depths to gather crustaceans and seaweed, it’s inevitable that your catch will be wet. Utilize a handy string bag to store your treasures, allowing water to drain away while keeping your foraged delicacies secure.
  7. Dip Net Elusive shrimp and prawns often seek refuge beneath rocks and in hidden crevices. Equipped with a dip net boasting a long handle, you can navigate tight spots with ease, ensnaring a generous haul of these delectable morsels.
  8. Lobster/Crab Hook When lobsters and crabs prove elusive in their hideaways, a specialized hook with an extended handle provides a much-needed advantage. This tool allows for easier access, making the seemingly impossible within reach. You can purchase purpose-made hooks or fashion your own according to your preference.

Tips & Advice for an Unforgettable Coastal Foraging Experience

Embarking on a coastal foraging adventure requires mindful preparation and consideration for the environment. Maximize your experience with these invaluable tips and advice:

  • Prioritize Safety: Stay vigilant and aware of your surroundings, keeping an eye on tides and potential hazards. Be cautious when navigating slippery rocks or venturing into unknown areas.
  • Sustainable Practices: Only gather what you need and avoid overharvesting to maintain the delicate balance of coastal ecosystems. Respect local regulations and guidelines to ensure the longevity of these precious resources.
  • Species Identification: Familiarize yourself with local flora and fauna to distinguish between edible treasures and protected species. Consult reputable sources or local experts for accurate identification.
  • Leave No Trace: As an eco-conscious forager, ensure you leave the coastal environment as pristine as you found it. Dispose of any waste responsibly and refrain from disturbing habitats or damaging delicate marine ecosystems.
  • Learn from Experts: Consider joining guided foraging tours or workshops led by experienced foragers. Their knowledge and expertise can enhance your understanding of coastal ecosystems and enrich your foraging endeavors.
  • Seasonal Awareness: Different seasons yield varied foraging opportunities. Research and understand the seasonal availability of different species in your chosen coastal region to optimize your harvest.
  • Respect Wildlife: Remember that coastal areas are home to a diverse range
When should you go coastal foraging?

For coastal foraging my foraging friends who are much more experienced than me always advise only picking shellfish from May to October but the seasons are changing with some different weather patterns.


Is Orache Edible? Identify and Use Orache

Spear leaved Orache is a dusty green leaf that is commonly found on and near the beach. Coastal tracks will lead you to this salty wild treat. The first time we encountered to wild edible leaf was on a coastal foraging excursion to the west coast of Ireland with our foodie friend Denis. He would often stop and taste the delicacies of the land: samphire, dulce and chamomile were definitely on the list but then we stumbled upon Orache and he told me to try some. I was blown away.

This is the salty spinach I wanted to add to every soup dish I had tried so thanks to Denis we made a new discovery and have been using Orache to experiment ever since.


What is Orache?

Orache is a green plant that loves to grow in saline laced sand and coastal areas. It is also know as Atriplex (A.prostrata)

How to Identify and Eat Orache Leaves

The spear headed leaves and the coastal location makes this tasty plant easy enough to identify.

There is a look-a-like plant called lambs quarter which is also an edible cousin of this plant but not as salty and mostly found near woodland.

The leaves are arrow like triangular shaped.

You can eat Orache leaves raw in a salad or fry them up in a little olive oil. Substitute it for some of your spinach recipes.

When to eat Orache?

Forage the young leaves in late March and April. They maintain their saltiness while also having sweeter tones that are easy to digest when raw. Harvest the mature leaves in summer time. I snip the leaves in the summer months, leaving the stems for wildlife to nibble on.

Orache Recipes

Orache Flatbread

Wild Orache Dip

Seafood and Orache Pho


GO TO GROW PODCAST: Coastal Foraging Adventure in Ireland

We have a special podcast from the west of Ireland to give you some insights into coastal foraging along the Wild Atlantic Way

You are never guaranteed to get warm weather when walking by the shore in Ireland. Raindrops comes in all shapes and sizes, tiny drops that sprinkle the ground, sideways rain that catches you off guard, warm drizzling rain that soaks you to the bone but all of these weather conditions combine to make it extra rewarding with you stumble upon some unique culinary treats.

From fresh mussels clinging to the sides of rock pools to the shy winkles hiding beneath the brown seaweed. You will find everything you need for a warm cup of seafood chowder along the Irish coastline. My first coastal foraging excursion was fruitful.

As a child my mother would buy us small plastic buckets and short fishing rods to scoop out the seaweed from the giant rockpools all along the Co.Clare coastlines. Picking was part of every stage of growing up. From child to adolescent I made the transition from bucket to bag and back again when picking along the shore.

My grandfather would take the whole family to a nearby beach and we would eagerly wait until the tide had gone fully out, revealing the rockpools, seaweed and most importantly the shellfish hiding underneath. The art of picking was simple, patience was the only real skill required.

Myself and my sister would spend hours scanning the shallow pools of water for the biggest winkles, crabs and mussels. Although all of the shellfish that we scoured for were easily identifiable, not all were easy to find.

Winkles were the easiest to collect. They tend to roll with the tide so it was not a matter of searching for them but more time was spent deciding on which ones to collect. I never tool the baby ones. This was my one rule for collecting winkles. Once you have avoiding the baby shells you can enjoy scooping out large handfuls of winkles alons most shorelines.

When it came to crabs I was always a little nervous to pick them up. Their claws would reach right out to stab pinch you if you were too quick. Sometimes we would just play with them for awhile before placing them carefully back in were they belonged. Laughing as they scrambled off to find their pals. Mussels were always considered the biggest treat. They clung tightly to the edges of rocks, making it more difficult to pull them off. Nothing can beat a pot of fresh mussels cooked in garlic and tomato juices. Give it a try. Believe me you won’t be disappointed.

Why not try a spot of razor clam hunting while you are by the shore. Simply bring some salt on your journey and seek out the small holes in the beach. Pour in the salt and watch in awe as the razor clams come to life.

Other favourites of mine include kelp and seaweed. These make delicious additions to salads. You can also use them to enhance the flavour of any seafood dish.

DON’T let the weather prevent you from your next adventure. Remember that a little rain never hurt anyone. If you happen to get a sunny day then take advantage of it, spending a few hours by the shore.

LEAVE enough for others. Everyday we hear warnings of over fishing so be mindful of this when you are foraging by the sea. Only pick enough for one days pickings, giving the shores time to replenish its goods over time.

WEAR suitable clothing. This is key to any foraging adventure. Waterproof shoes comes in handy when you playing in rockpools. Also, bring a spare pair of socks to keep your feet dry.

KNOW the tides. Most countries will offer websites that give you the times of the tidal currents. Keep a close eye on these. You don’t want to venture all the way to the beach to find that you have to wait five hours until the tide recedes.

DON’T be afraid of seaweed or crabs. The waves may look rough but the sea is gentle with many varieties of produce to try. You never know what treasures you will find.

To join us for a coastal foraging adventure get in touch anytime at



6 Wild Edible Plants found by the Sea

When people think of Coastal Foraging they often only consider the varieties of seaweeds and shellfish on offer but believe us, the wild edible plants growing by the seaside will give you plenty of food for thought. Conditions by the coast can make it difficult for some commonly found plants to survive. Strong winds and high tides are no match for these sturdy plants.

Here are just a few of our favourite wild edible plants to forage for by the sea:

Sea Beet

First and foremost is the dark green wild plant of Sea beet. This healthy green will greet you alongside sandy and rocky beaches across Europe. Like spinach the leaves can be added to stir-fry’s, used as a bed for your fish dishes and are a delicious vitamin full addition to your breakfast smoothies.


Ox Eye Daisies

You can’t miss this friendly edible plant. In the past Ox Eye Daisies were used to treat coughs, asthma, ulcers and to clear sinus problems. It is a diuretic and a tonic. The flowers can be pickled or covered in batter and the young leaves can be used in a summer salad.


Sea Radish

Looking for a homegrown supply of tasty greens to add to salads and dishes than sea radish is a great alternative source of greens that can be foraged all year round. This yellow headed grows in coastal areas and shines brightly in the summer months. The leaves work well in pesto recipes and the small pods are a great addition to summer salads.



Be careful not to confuse yarrow for other poisonous plants such as hemlock. Both have white heads for flowers but there are two distinguishing features of Yarrow to look out for. First the glimpses of yellow in the flower heads and next the unmistakable fern-like leaves. They usually grow in groups and pop up in wasteland, countryside trails and along coastal pathways.

Sea Rocket

This coastal friend is a member of the mustard family. With great amounts of Potassium, calcium and Vitamin B this plant can provide a welcome boost to the immune system and all parts of the sea rocket plant are edible. This wild plant holds water and its hard, fleshy leaves make it easier to withstand any harsh coastal climate. Herbalists love to speak about the health benefits of this common wild plant.

We hope that you enjoy discovering these wild edible plants and find others to add to your favourite dishes. The great thing about foraging is that the land changes with the seasons are there are different plant varieties to be discovered throughout the year.

To start recording your foraging adventures feel free to download our Foragers Planner Pack and we have a special Herb Planner Pack for herb lovers out there.

To join us on on our food and foraging adventures please contact a member of the team.


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