Fish and sea spaghetti, anyone?

Mike Baess
Mike Baess
Food writer

It’s definitely one of the most bizarre food concepts I’ve ever heard of, but this week I took the plunge and tried my first edible fresh seaweed.

It’s definitely one of the most bizarre food concepts I’ve ever heard of, but this week I took the plunge and tried my first edible fresh seaweed.

If you love keeping up on foodie trends then you can’t have missed reading about the seaweed craze that’s starting to sweep the world.

It’s long been part of the national diet of Far East countries such as China, Japan and South Korea and is now starting to take off as a hot trend in America and Europe.

While seaweed has been popular as a seaside treat in Cornwall, along the Welsh coast and in Ireland it has hardly been known outside of gourmet circles in the rest of the UK.

But now Tesco has just become the first supermarket to sell fresh seaweed. A variety called Sea Spaghetti went on sale a few weeks ago and a second variety, called Dulse, which can be deep-fried and eaten as a delicious crispy vegetable is about to go on sale.

And I’ll wager that you’ll soon be hearing more about this supposedly powerful and beneficial superfood.

Popular with celebrity chefs such as Heston Blumenthal and Jamie Oliver seaweed is already creating a stir in trendy restaurants around Britain.

I expected to be overwhelmed with an overly strong taste of the sea but I was surprised as I chewed my first strand of seaweed spaghetti and found it to have a subtle marine taste, slightly salty but with the texture of pasta ribbons.

It is a vegetable which can be used as a healthier, nutritional beneficial substitute for pasta or as a side dish. I tried it with some baked salmon and even put a little parmesan on top of the seaweed to give it an extra kick.

It’s used to give an exciting new taste dimension to fish dishes, curries, soups, bread, pizzas, salads and even smoothies.

Seaweed farming Already popular in the Far East interest in edible seaweed is growing in Europe and America.

Tesco’s variety is harvested by seaweed entrepreneur Tim van Berkel and partner Caro Warwick-Evans who formed the Cornish Sea Weed Company in 2012.

Tim and Caro’s idea was to popularise seaweed as a sustainable, local, healthy and nutritious food and after going to Ireland to work with an organic seaweed company they set up their company.

This week I spoke to Tim about how he started out.

Tim said: “We needed to apply for a licence because while anyone can forage for seaweed for personal use you need permission from the Crown Estate if you are going to sell it.

Seaweed farming Tim van Berkel out collecting seaweed on the Cornish coast.

“Since then we have gone from strength to strength, selling at local farmers’ markets and food festivals and having our seaweed used in a recipe by a sausage making company.

“However getting some of our products on sale at Tesco means we can now introduce the wonderful taste of fresh seaweed to more people than ever before.”

So living on an island and being surrounded by seaweed, presumably it’s easy enough for anyone to harvest it and make a success of selling it?

Tim added: “Easy? That’s what we thought too until we ran into the problems that people didn’t really know how to cook with it, or thought that seaweed is no more than the rotting stuff you see washed up on beaches. People didn’t really understand why anyone would eat it!

“Neither of us had any idea about how to harvest seaweed, let alone what species there were how they tasted or how to cook them. So we went to Ireland to work with an organic seaweed company who showed us the ins and outs of seaweed harvesting.

“On the back of that we started the company in summer 2012 with the idea to bring sustainable, local, healthy and nutritious food to people’s plates. Since then we have gone from strength to strength and now, working with Tesco, more people than ever before will be able to find out about this wonderful food.”

For more information about seaweed and its nutritional benefits visit Tim and Cara’s site.

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