When I was an adolescent I was sent to South Shields on a biology field trip
During the week long stay we had each to devise a project, carry out research and submit our findings in the form of a write-up.
For some reason I chose seaweed.
Fascinating stuff when you look at it closely
Did I ever admit that I don't get out much?)
even had my favourite fucus, chondus crispus (aka Irish moss, or
carrageen moss) the delightful little pink coral-like variety that grows
from the middle intertidal zone down to the gloomy depths of the sea...
Here's the scientific stuff from Wikepedia
crispus is a source of carrageenan, which is commonly used as a
thickener and stabilizer in milk products such as ice-creeam and
processed foods including luncheon meat, in Europe it is indicated as
E407 or E407b. It may also be used as a thickener in calico-printing and
for fining beer or wine. Irish moss is frequently mixed with
Mastocarpus stellatus (Gigartina mammillosa), Chondracanthus acicularis
(G. acicularis) and other seaweeds with which it is associated in
growth. Carrageenan and agar-agar are also used in Asia for gelatin-like
deserts such as almond jelly."
I didn't know, as I sat on
that freezing cold North Sea coastline in November, valiantly eating a
Mr Whippy in that stoical "we're at the seaside, we're darned well going
to eat ice-cream and sunbathe even if it we get frost-bite and
hypothermia" manner that the British adopt whenever they are at the
coast, that chondus crispus is used in its manufacture.
Had I known I would have been even more enamoured of this little beauty...
More interesting facts about chondus crispus?
Well, in Breton it has goes by many names:
liken ruz, teil piko, bouch, bouchounoù, bejin behan, bejin gwenn,
bouch farad youd, bouch gad, bouch gwenn, jargod, ougnachou-ru, teles,
To the French it is:
petit goémon, mousse d’Irlande, lichen (carraghèen), goémon frisé, goémon blanc, goémon rouge, mousse perlée
"Chondrus crispus is, compared to most other seaweeds, well-investigated scientifically. (I obviously wasn't the first to be captivated by crispus) It has been used as a model species to study photosynthesis, carageenan biosynthesis, and stress responses." (Wikepedia again)
Natural History Mag
has an article explaining how chondus crispus just keeps hanging on
with pictures that prove that we should all be proud to stand tall but
that, at times, it is necessary to bend and yield to forces more
powerful than ourselves. A very zen seaweed indeed.
There are 1600 species of red algae, most of which are marine
Fucus vesiculosis was another that I liked, partly because it's so
darned easy to identify and partly because popping the little bladders
as I sat on a rock and gazed out to sea was a calming activity that, in
later years, was replaced by popping the pockets of air in that
protective plastic paper used to wrap delicate items for safe posting.
(Nature is always first with a useful invention, n'est-ce pas)
Back to Wikedpedia
vesiculosus, known by the common name Bladder wrack, is a seaweed found
on the coasts of the North Sea, the western Baltic Sea, and the
Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, also known by the common names black tang,
rockweed, bladder Fucus, sea oak, black tany, cut weed and rock wrack.
It was the original source of iodine, discovered in 181,1 and was used
extensively to treat goitre, a swelling of the thyroid gland related to
iodine deficiency. In the 1860s, it was claimed that bladder wrack, as a
thyroid stimulant, could counter obesity by increasing the metabolic
rate and, since then, it has been featured in numerous weight-loss
I am not a fan of weight-loss remedies but French ladies love them.
In the fresh fruit and vegetable section of Carrefour there is a rack of herbs that are said to aid minceur, the
toiletry section displays bottles of pills that claim to help you lose
the flab and find your thighs, whole magazines, emblazoned with such
headlines as "Lose Your Dimples Before Slipping Into Your Bathing
Costume" are devoted to the crusade against cellulite...
No, that's not my tasse de té but,
living as I do when in France surrounded on three sides by brine and within an easy
drive of some of the most spectacular coasts in Europe, I cannot fail to
be tempted by the taste of the sea.
I regularly crack crab claws
munch on mussels
fry a fish
lick my lips over lobster...
firmly believe that the body should be fed that which it craves and
since moving to Brittany I have craved the bounty of the sea, whether it
be animal, vegetable or mineral
and so while The Ragazza and I
were browsing an organic foodstore in the seaside town of Binic I
bought these packets of seaweed flakes to sprinkle on salads...
Now I can have a taste of the sea even when I'm land-locked in Oxfordshire
Have I converted anyone to the delights of seaweed?