Today I picked Breton seaweeds and found myself in Japan!

Grateloupia, dilsea carnosa, kombu, saccharina latissima … do these names mean anything to you ?  No?  Then let me take you down to the foreshore at Le Croisic so we can discover together these fresh-from-the-sea edible seaweeds which can appear on our dinner tables served up Japanese style!
Seaweed picking at Le Croisic
You say October in the Guérande Peninsula…I say ‘Saveurs!’  Yes, it’s that time of year again! When the event of culinary/gastronomical culture  ‘les saveurs d’octobre’ comes around !  Like every year a selection of events are organised around the theme of gastronomy, local produce and particularly around the purveyors of the ‘art’.  On Friday we met two of these ‘enthusiasts’ Valérie and Jean-Marie.

Both great lovers of the seashore and the treasures you can find hidden there, they took us down to ‘la plage de St-Goustan’ at Le Croisic, a stone’s throw from their marine farm for a spot of ‘seaweed picking’ !


Bucket in hand, wellies on and my parka done right up off I went for a lung full of fresh sea air on this beautiful autumn morning, the weather was cool but sunny! There were about thirty or so of us gathered at the beach.  Valérie devided the group into 2, I went off to join Jean-Marie for a ‘briefing’ before we plunged our hands into the rather cold water of a few of the rock pools left behind as the tide gradually went out.
Jean-Marie, 'les Jardins de la Mer' at Le Croisic
 «Right, first things first let me put your minds at rest:  there are no such things as toxic seaweeds! They’re not like mushrooms!» Jean-Marie tells us clearly.  He’s obviously anticipated this ‘frequently asked question’ from one of his ‘apprentice pickers’!

He gave us none the less some advice: « only pick the seaweed when the coefficient of the tide is high enough, take it from an area which is not often used by tourists and don’t pick up washed up seaweed, take those which are still ‘attached!’ »
 
After a few more details about the site and type of seaweed we might find there, it was over to us!  Faced with our first rock pool, corr! that’s cold on my fingers!…first seaweed successfully picked!   «Right then, that’s some sea lettuce, it’s almost the end of the season for this one». Well there you go, seaweeds are like vegetables, they too have a season.  Jean-Marie really loved giving us all the nutritional virtues of each of the seaweeds.  For this particular one it was its vitamin C content which struck me the most: 8 to 10 times that of an orange!
Red seaweeds, seaweed picking at Le Croisic
A little further we found some, red seaweeds! This time it’s the protein content of this seaweed which is amazingly high up to 40% of its composition. One of our findings bears the name of ‘grateloupia turuturu’. …our first tasting…the group was unanimous:  “This is DELICIOUS!”  Then Jean-Marie delivered the ‘Scoop of the Day’ : «this one is very rich in antioxidants, it’s not exactly the elixir of eternal youth…but almost!» 

Finally we come across the famous Breton kombu!  This rectangular shaped seaweed which closely resembles leather is used to prepare ‘dashi’, the famous Japanese broth.  Jean-Marie informed us that there’s even a company in Saint-Malo which makes objects from kombu.
 
  • Seaweed picking with 'les Jardins de la Mer' at Le Croisic
  • Participants in seaweed picking at Le Croisic
  • Seaweeds on the foreshore at Le Croisic
  • Excursion group picking of seaweeds at Le Croisic
  • Participants in seaweed picking at Le Croisic
  • Red seaweeds, seaweed picking at Le Croisic
  • Participants in seaweed picking at Le Croisic
  • Seaweed picking at Le Croisic
  • Seaweeds on the foreshore at Le Croisic
  • Seaweed picking at Le Croisic
Once our bucket was full, it was time to head back to the marine farm to prepare fresh seaweed tartare!  We all met back up in the hut built some 45 years ago by Jean-Marie’s father. «there are dry-toilets out the back behind the building if anybody needs to go». Everything here is done with sustainable development in mind!  Valérie went off to get a few utensils and we embarked on the preparation of our tartare.  The first stage is to rinse the seaweeds really well and drain it, before chopping them up finely. 
  • Preparation of the seaweeds tartare
  • Tasting of the seaweeds tartare
 «To make a tartare it’s always better to combine two types of seaweed» Valérie advised us, and this makes up 60% of the tartare. Then for the remaining 40% of the ingredients the recipe can vary : an oil base which can be olive, walnut or sesame seed oil ; or soya sauce «preferably wheat-free, its less salty » advised Valérie ; some rice vinegar, or if you prefer red wine or shallot vinegar; lemon juice; and finally a shallot and garlic or spring onion base.

And now it’s tasting time!  This was a most welcome snack as there’s nothing like two hours spent on the shore to give you an appetite!  Then it was time for each of us to collect our respective ‘harvest’ and head for home to prepare our own tartare!


Would like to try your hand at picking seaweed or discover ‘la ferme marine les Jardins de la Mer’ at Le Croisic?  Then visit their website to find out the dates of the visits and outings planned.  What’s more you can also check out Valérie and Jean-Marie’s recipes!