Meet Kaz Padidar, Jersey’s own bushman.
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.
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!)
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.
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?
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….
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.
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.