Where do you go to forage for loads of vitamins, minerals, omega-three-fatty acids and iodine when winter has cleared the land of the vastness of blooming shoots, leaves and flowers? While winter provides both some herbs, leaves and even some flowers and mushrooms, the common perception that winter means meager opportunities for foraging is not entirely inaccurate. In terms of plant growth ON LAND. While this gives us principally three options in our search for wild food – the air, fresh and salt waters and beneath the ground we stand on – I, a vegetarian, do not recommend looking to the sky in search for wild nutrients for the dinner table. But the two other options provide us with an abundance of wild winter foods: beneath the ground the roots of various plants are ripe for unearthing and for boiling, baking, frying, grating and raw consumption. This article, however, will take us to another natural environment abundant with wild food, into the salty waters of our oceans. To gather seaweeds.

A trip to rocky beaches in the UK

Living in landlocked Berlin one has to decide which journey to a costal destination will be most rewarding in terms of seaweed foraging. There are somewhat nearby options at Germany´s northern coasts, as well as of the coasts of the Netherlands and Scandinavia. But the more exposed to the waves and winds of the big, wild Atlantic, and the dominated by rocky beaches carved by this vast ocean the better. The UK seems to me to be the best choice. And so I went. To poetically named, and beautifully steep and fantastically carved out rocky beaches, such as Church Doors Cove and Rhoose, both in Wales – Church Doors Cove in the coastal national park of Pembrokeshire – as well as Saltdean, near Brighton, England.

For a Northern European forager roaming mostly inland habitats, the rocky coastal environment of the UK offers an adundance of wild food appearing and tasting exotic and strange as well as delicious. Rocky coasts are the natural habitat for seaweeds, that attach themselves to and grow on rocks from their so-called holdfasts, as well as for rock samphire, that, like seaweeds, are often out of reach, but, unlike the seaweeds, not due to high tides, but to their preference for steep cliffs as their habitat from the surfaces of which they crop out. It is not without good reason that, in Shakespeare´s King Lear, rock samphire gathering is referred to as a “dreadful trade”. Rock samphire does often grow several meters up the cliffs, but not necessarily,, and it can be gathered by any beach-goer, (provided the beach has cliffs) as well as by experienced climbers. Once gathered and in your mouth the rock samphire delivers a truly unusual taste experience.

So do the various wild seaweeds that can be harvested from the rocky shores. Some of these wild seaweeds can be found in Asian stores and well-assorted supermarkets, some cannot, however, wherefore foraging, also in the case of seaweeds, can provide experiences of unique flavors that cannot otherwise be had. Most of the seaweeds found growing on rocky shores are edible, and no onshore species are poisonous, so the only potential concern is with possible pollution of the water. You can check the Marine Conservation Society web-site for information on the sea water quality of UK beaches. Apart from wisely picking your beach area, sheathing your foraging knife while moving on the rocks is the most important safety precaution to take. The rocks are slippery!

Probably any in season trip to a beach with rocky shores can provide you with bags full of edible seaweeds, all with their distinctive tastes and culinary adventures. During my trip to Wales and England I have had the elemental pleasure of eating pepper dulse seaweed fresh and flavorful literally on the rocks! I have shared a dinner with two new friends consisting of sushi with wild pepper dulse, (yes, it is my favorite one), and with bladder wrack and wild on-land wild foods such as dandelion leaves and rosehips, as well as a number of seaweed salads. Let me introduce you to some these interesting, flavorful and nutritious wild sea foods, the way to identify them, when and where to harvest them and how to use them in the kitchen.

Pepper dulse

Pepper dulse is known as “the truffle of the sea”. This is not due to rarity, such as the actual truffle, but due to a quite unique and strong flavour.

Taste: The taste is both fishy, peppery and sweet.

Identification: It has small, (1-6cm) flat fronds that are irregularly branched though it is roughly pyramidal in shape. It varies in color from yellowish-green to deep chocolate brown.

Habitat: The habitat is rocks from the mid tidal range downwards. For a novice it can be confused with carrageen, which is no problem, since the carrageen is also edible. No inshore seaweed species are poisonous, wherefore the distinctive taste is a good way to identify it. Furthermore, raw pepper dulse eaten fresh on the rocks is super delicious!

Season: It is quite common and can be harvested all year round, but is best December – May.

How to harvest: Trim from the rocks with scissors, don´t pull and thereby remove the holdfast that provides new growth and have pieces of rock clinging to the seaweed harvested.


Best known as nori, which is used to make the dark green sheets for sushi. It is also well-known in Welsh traditional cuisine, where it is cooked for 6 hours and made into a form of puree called laverbread, in some versions mixed with oatmeal and lightly seasoned. 

Taste: Imparts a rich, savoury, umami quality to food it is added to.

Identification: brown/green/purple sheets looking like stranded bin bags.

Habitat: It clings to exposed rocks on open beaches and grows from about three quarters down the tidal range.

Season: November – May

How to harvest: Cut up to 2/3rds of the sheets, leaving plenty to grow on the rock. Never clear a whole rock or area.


Dulse has been marketed as the bacon of the sea! 

Taste: It has a rich, meaty, salty flavour. 

Identification: Dulse is medium-sized (10 – 40cm). It has red, usually purple-brown, irregularly branched and divided lobes.

Habitat: You can find dulse on most rocky shores at low tide.

Season: All year round. At its best December – July.

How to harvest: Cut up to 2/3rds with a sharp pair of scissors.

Tooth (or serrated) wrack

Tooth wrack is one of several wracks, which are the most abundant kinds furthest up the shore. Others include the bladderwrack, easily identified by its air-filled bubbles or “bladders” and the spiral wrack with a spiralling stem and pockets that often grow together two and two forming a heart. 

Taste: Tooth wrack has a mild flavor like a mild salad leaf, and is good raw i salads.

Identification: The tooth wrack is flat green fronds with a clear yellow midrib, and the edges are serrated like a bread knife.

Habitat: Very common on most shores and growing in the upper tidal range.

How to harvest: Cut up to 2/3rds with a sharp pair of scissors.


Taste: the taste of the wireweed resembles a salad green. 

Identification: In its form it resembles a herb with a main stem and small leaves dotted along this stem. However, It distinguishes itself from the herbs and from other seaweeds by its egg-like vesicles or air-bladders also dotted along the stem. The color is yellow-green to brown.

Habitat: It occupies a broad range of habitats and spectrum of the tidal range, from upper intertidal, (mainly rock pools), to sub-tidal.

How to harvest: Cut up to 2/3rds with a pair of scissors or knife.


Like the similar forest kelp, oarweed forms subaquatic forests around the coasts. 

Taste and texture: Oarweed and forest kelp are quite tough, and retains some of this also after cooking. They add umami and a briny flavour to other foods they are added to.

Identification: Like forest kelp, oarweed has long, (up to 3m) flat, brown to golden-brown, finger-like fronds growing from a shorter, narrower stem called a meristem. Oarweed has a flat stem that flops limp when exposed, unlike forest kelp that has a round, erect stem when exposed.

Habitat: Only at the mean low tide or below. Close consultation with a tide table is necessary to ensure succesful foraging of oarweed and forest kelp.

How to harvest: Cut above the meristem with a sharp knife or pair of scissors.