Bush tucker trials, St Ouen style!

Meet Kaz Padidar, Jersey’s own bushman.

20140520-073650.jpg It’s spring walking week here in Jersey, organised by Jersey Tourism, and I managed to book my niece and I on a foraging walk. We met at Kempt Tower in St Ouens bay and had only just crossed the road before we were tasting wild fennel shoots and mustard leaves and flowers.

20140520-081927.jpg A few steps further and we were next to the sea wall and large patches of sea beet. The fine tips are being used by local chefs as an embellishment on their dishes, but the smaller leaves can also be eaten raw or steamed and used as spinach. (We don’t taste this sea beet with no means to wash it first, it’s in the ‘dog’ zone!)

20140520-090657.jpgWe tried some peppery rock samphire, drier than the marsh samphire you can buy in the fish market. A warming, refreshing burst with just a very slight bitter aftertaste.

20140520-091032.jpg The tide was out. Way out. So we walked across the sand, compacted by the pounding Atlantic waves, and headed towards the exposed reef.

20140520-092508.jpg In one rock pool we find a small amount of laver seaweed (Porphyra umbilicalis) a thin, smooth, stretchy wafer-like sheet. This seaweed is a superfood, with a high iodine and iron content.

20140520-093710.jpg Further towards the sea, in another rock pool, we test the flavour of the Japanese wireweed (Sargassum muticum). This is an extremely invasive species where it’s ability to grow quickly can block the growth of local seaweeds. I loved the crunchy nuttiness of this seaweed, so would definitely collect this again.

20140520-095125.jpg The group trundled on, over barnacle strewn rocks, from rock pool to rock pool, collecting some limpets along the way.

20140520-095340.jpg In St Aubin’s bay at the start of the the summer there is usually a bloom of sea lettuce on the sand, caused by a nitrates run off from the potato fields. This is smelly and toxic, so I was surprised to find that sea lettuce (Ulva lactuca) was edible. In it’s fresh-from-the-rock pool variety, that is. Can you see how fresh and clean the water is, with the sea lettuce sitting happily alongside the sea anemones?

20140520-120119.jpg We learned how to harvest the seaweed by holding the weed and cutting or tearing no more than the top third. This ensures that the hold fast remains strong, and allows the weed to regenerate. We tasted channelled wrack, sea spaghetti (my favourite by far), dulce and serrated wrack. The Jersey local language is Jerriais and the word for seaweed is vraic, which is said as wrack! It makes sense now….

20140520-120410.jpg I hadn’t realised how far we had come, even though we were still far from the low tide mark. It was a beautiful view back to shore and Kempt Tower – all rock, sea, sand and blue blue sky.

20140520-120912.jpg We collected the soft, air bubbled tips of the bladder wrack and headed back to shore once more.

20140520-121511.jpg Using a fire steel and striker and a small handful of birch bark the fire was lit, then fed small amounts of recycled wood from packaging or old scaffold boards.

20140520-121704.jpg As the limpets were gently cooking, alongside some of our collected seaweeds, we enjoyed sharing a bottle of Kaz’s home made elderflower champagne. Absolutely delicious! I made elderflower cordial this week, but looks like I have something new to try making.

20140520-122115.jpg When the limpets pop out their shell we put them on our makeshift chopping board (scaffolding plank) and took the black backs from them, leaving just the sandy coloured meat. From here they were gently fried in butter for a few minutes, before it was tasting time. I expected chewy, tough and slightly slimy but was pleasantly surprised. The taste was mild, definitely more meaty than fishy and yes you needed to chew, but no more than you would a steak. I really enjoyed the flavour and texture, and enjoyed second helpings.

20140520-123618.jpg Finally it was time for extreme cooking! We all stood back as Kaz tackled some serrated wrack which spit and jumped as it was cooked, but tasted delicious.

20140520-124039.jpg Sadly our adventure was over and it was time to leave the beach and head home again, full of plans to come back again soon.

My thanks go out to Jersey Tourism for organising the Spring Walking Week, and especially to Kaz of Wild Adventures for an enthusiastic forage.

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