Cornish seaweed may be new dish of the day
A man in Cornwall has been granted the first licence in England to gather seaweed from around the coastline to sell for people to eat.
Rory MacPhee was given an experimental licence by the Crown Estate to handpick seaweed from around the Lizard Peninsula.
While such licences already exist in Scotland, Rory will be the first in England to work his way along the coast harvesting what he needs from the massive swathes of algae floating around the shore.
The boat-builder and furniture-maker, who lives in Falmouth, used to be a shipping lawyer.
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But he has branched into the food market and is keen to give seaweed a marketing overhaul, rebranding it as "sea vegetables".
Rory said he wants to take seaweed from being the preserve of health food stores to appealing to a wider audience.
He said he hopes British consumers begin to take seaweed to their culinary hearts in the way the Japanese do.
In Japanese cuisine, seaweed is a key ingredient used to achieve the so-called fifth taste, known as "umami", which can also be found in cheese and mushrooms.
Rory said: "Seaweed is so rich in nutrients and is extremely tasty – a lot of the top chefs are beginning to use it in their dishes.
"It can be used in soup and bread and is a great substitute for bacon when it's smoked."
But preparing seaweed for market is a complex process.
Once he has gathered the seaweed Rory flattens out the leaves before laying it on rocks to sun-dry. After it is dried out sufficiently he takes it away to cure.
He then grinds the strips into a powder before pouring it into test tubes and selling it at market.
Rory is a founder member of the Seaweed Health Foundation which has around 40 members across the country. Their aim is to promote research into seaweed as part of a healthy diet.
But it's not only the health and taste aspects of seaweed that Rory is keen to extol.
He also sees harvesting the marine plants as a valuable commercial resource that could flourish into a vibrant local industry. Rory said: "In these days of economic doom and gloom the food market remains strong, with a tremendously exciting new development for Cornwall in the gathering and selling of sea vegetables."
He added: "Of course, it all has to be done with legal permissions and consents to ensure good quality food and ecological sustainability.
"Why can't we have the fishermen bringing in their lobster pots while others are on the shore collecting up the seaweed?"