Stories of the Sea

Seaweed foraging with Fat Hen

Seaweed is something I see most days, living by the coastline in Cornwall. But I’m ashamed to say my knowledge of this denizen of rockpools and the sea is hugely lacking, beyond seeing it as something slippery to walk over to get to the water or getting a fright whilst swimming when it brushes past you. So when this fascinating course came to my attention, hosted by the oh-so-knowledgeable Caroline Davey at Fat Hen, I jumped at the chance to learn more about this incredible plant.

With nothing but a set of coordinates to find the meeting place, I knew immediately that this course was set to be unique, foraging at a hidden spot in the far west of Cornwall. Thankfully easy to find, I parked my car and joined the all-female group for the day, headed by Caroline herself and her friendly, oh-so-cute spaniel Maya.

Caroline set up Fat Hen back in 2007 with the aim of ‘breaking down the barriers between the kitchen, the outdoors and the dining table’. With a fabulous following (it has been voted as one of the top 10 foraging courses in the UK by Countryfile and as one of the top 10 holidays to have a real taste of a destination by The Telegraph), its credentials are second to none, and well worth signing up for when on holiday in Cornwall.

So there I was, in a remote spot in West Cornwall, with a keen, friendly group armed with baskets and scissors. Caroline led the way, and as we meandered down country paths towards the sea, she pointed out plants that could heal, feed or kill you; from under-appreciated Fat Hen (a fabulous staple that our ancestors treasured years before we began farming), to Water Hemlock that will kill you in 15 minutes – looking so much like harmless cow parsley to send shivers down my spine – making us appreciate how important it is to correctly identify plants.

Soon enough, we arrived at the hidden away cove we were to explore for seaweed. Beautifully remote, Caroline regards it highly for the cleanliness of its waters – massively important for foragers! All seaweed is edible, we learn – it just needs to be alive, which means it’s still attached to rocks rather than freely lying on the beach on the shoreline, where its likely to be unclean.

Caroline led us carefully over the rocks, using her keen eye to uncover the plethora of seaweed varieties – this beach alone was home to ten different species.

With the weather ever-changing, we worked quickly over the rocks, snipping off pieces for our basket (using scissors to snip off tendrils, rather than pulling them off the rock, ensures regrowth).

After a while, the weather changed and began to rain heavily, so we took shelter in a nearby cave before climbing back up the hill to our cars. As the weather was set bad, Caroline took us back to Fat Hen HQ for our picnic (this would usually be outside).

As we settled around the huge oak table, Caroline ladled out bowls of steaming miso soup, complete with seaweed and mushrooms – so nourishing and warming after a chilly morning.

This was served with focaccia sprinkled with seaweed and crispy laver seaweed, which was then followed by laverbread with sorrel mayonnaise, then huge sushi wraps with home-smoked mackerel.

For dessert, a wonderful panna cotta thickened by carragheen seaweed and flavoured with rosemary, served with delicious strawberries.

With tummies full, we said our goodbyes and set off. As I meandered along the country lanes, I reflected on the importance of unprepossessing seaweed, how it can be used in such a variety of ways, such as culinary, medicinal, or even for beauty, and its usefulness as a huge source of minerals and vitamins. With its vast availability, learn how to make the most of this incredible plant though one of Fat Hen’s marvellous courses – a perfect addition to any holiday.

Fat Hen offers a huge array of courses, whether it’s a private foraging and cooking course, a foraging walk and picnic or a forage and feast, cumulating at the amazing Gurnard’s Head.

Feeling inspired? Take a look at our luxury cottages in West Cornwall here.

The Fat Hen, Gwenmenhir, Boscawen-noon Farm, St Buryan, Penzance, Cornwall TR19 6EH | www.the-fat-hen.co.uk | 07767 792 417

 

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