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
FORAGING FOR SEAWEEDS
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.
- A Knife – A knife that you are familiar with is indispensable when dealing with stubborn mussels and limpets clinging to rocks.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.