Dulse (Palmaria palmata) is a wild red/purple translucent seaweed that grows in fronds on the North Atlantic coast of Britain.
It formed part of a regular diet for coastal dwelling communities for centuries, as it is low in calories, high in fibre, rich in minerals like potassium and iodine and a good source of protein. Seaweed is also one of the few non-animal food sources of Vitamin B12. If we can keep the supply & processing chain local, it could be a nice addition to your sustainable foods list and increase the variety of plants in your diet too. It is certainly worth exploring!
Coastal communities in Scotland and Northern Ireland have engaged in the harvesting of dulse, an activity known as ‘dulsing,’ for hundreds of years. The earliest recorded evidence of harvesting was by the Irish monks of Saint Columba’s era over 1400 years ago. Dulsing happens mid-August to mid-October. Harvesters used to set sail at the appropriate time of the moon as the tide was going out when swathes of dulse were revealed clinging to the rocks across the shallow seabed from where they could be gathered and taken back inland and spread out on the beach to dry. Now-a-days dulce is also grown and harvested along rope lines out to sea.
It is not possible to harvest dulse from the English coastline as the water is now too polluted and heavy-metal contamination is almost inevitable but in recent years there has been a revival of harvesting the abundant varieties of seaweeds from Scotland and Northern Ireland’s much purer coastal waters.
Foraging for dulse remains a niche and labour-intensive activity that has not yet been scaled up for commercial markets, but increased attention on the positive health benefits of eating seaweeds means that it is now possible to buy from outlets.
It is a very versatile ingredient; it can be eaten raw in a salad, having a salty flavour as you might expect. Its texture is chewy, like a natural chewing gum, so if you are eating it raw do chop it up small first. It can also be dried and eaten as a snack or to enhance the flavour of other dishes. Often included in kimchi recipes, but just as delicious flavouring popcorn or in a gorgeous soup. I have even seen it added to chocolate cake….