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As a child, I would hold my grandfather’s hand and walk on beaches, living my own little Goonies adventure, stuffing my pockets with what I swore were precious gems – every pebble held the promise of pirate gold – and then stashing them in a tin red and silver box – only to find out later they were just smoothed-out bits of beer bottles, courtesy of the sea’s DIY spa treatment.


So, here I am, a fair few years later, loitering on the Docks at Galway Bay Seafoods, grey clouds spread low across the sky, and I watch the fishermen nestle a dozen Pacific native oysters into their comfy wild seaweed bed. There’s this inexplicable shyness that always creeps in whenever I’m there, and there’s this recurring scenario: they offer to crack open the oysters for me, and I decline, knowing full well it will result in a sweaty, futile and unnecessarily long oyster-opening fiasco with my friends later.

Let’s not forget the wakame salad – the shamelessly overpriced yet irresistible treat me and my friends gladly splurge on in Asian joints, artsy rave with seaweed the colour of unripe plums and 50 shades of green.



As winter hits the Irish coast, you’ll spot dark brown seaweed, as deep as a pint of Guinness, clinging to stones, forming underwater beds for up to 20 years. Known as forest kelp, prevalent in Irish waters, extends up to 30 metres deep, thriving if the water is clear for photosynthesis.

They offer marine creatures shelter, with some species exclusively living on the holdfast, stipe (long stem), or fronds.
In late winter, the kelp sheds its fronds, carrying attached creatures, and regenerates.
Blue-rayed limpets avoid eviction by descending the stipe to the holdfast.

Historically used for agricultural fertilisers, kelp now serves the alginate industry, providing emulsifiers and gelling agents for cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, and last but not least, food.


The land yields its summer treasures, while winter sees the ocean providing seaweeds and sea vegetables. Irish seaweed names like “feamainn gheimhridh” (aka winter seaweed) add a poetic touch to the age-old recognition of nature.

Gloomy despite the hour, the mist blurring reality, fleeting sunlight breaks through the roofing clouds, revealing the remaining brave souls who dive into freezing waters to forage the precious winter seaweed.

Why all the fuss? Full of nutrients, thriving in midwinter, seaweed is boasting more vitamins than your mother’s medicine cabinet.  Seaweed’s significance in Ireland is woven into language, where sleabhac (nori) also symbolises a drooping flower or, curiously, an otherworldly being.

You’ll also easily find dilisk, dips of black, quarter redness, found in mid to lower tidal zones, often added in hearty stews; carrageen moss with a reddish allure, lending its properties to cough remedies and soups; nutty brown sea spaghetti, soiling a ball of boiling water like a dirty classroom paintbrush;  and kelp, rather brown and found in low tides, added to baths or casseroles.

Diving into a sea of slimy seaweed might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but the Irish have long hailed its healing mojo.

Once considered the “poor man’s doctor”, seaweed was a lifesaver during the Famine and is making a comeback in these recession-ridden times.

In the gloom of the winter blues and Christmas fatigue, the idea of hot seaweed baths almost becomes enticing – skin-softening properties and if you’re lucky, rejuvenating effects.  


Cut, don’t pull, and take no more than a third. As your scissors snip through seaweed, do leave some behind to ensure the underwater community relying on it gets their fair share, and remember not to overstay your welcome along the coast. Always listen to the ocean, never turn your back on her and follow the tide. Forage with respect, and let’s not forget to stand up for the wild spaces and keep them safe for generations to come. Green Sod Ireland holds a precious 14-acre sanctuary at Salrock, and with it a bit of shore, and aims to support and grow diverse ecosystems as ethically as can be.


Salrock, Green Sod Ireland, Seaweed

As climate change prompts a global embrace of seaweed, a carbon-absorbing, regenerative marvel, seaweed farming becomes a lifeline for communities, offering jobs and revitalising traditions.

Challenges do loom though, demanding political and social will to foster the industry’s growth ethically. 

As I watch a dog covered in wet sand rubbing itself against a worn wooden sign-post, down by Ladies beach, I think of the many stories that remain in Ireland, swept under the sea.


References :

Coastal programmes. (2021). Marine Biodiversity : Forest kelp – Clean Coasts. https://cleancoasts.org/marine-biodiversity-in-ireland/marine-coastal-habitats-marine-water-body/marine-biodiversity-forest-kelp/

Phelan, A. (2010). Fit to be tried : Seaweed bath. Independent.ie. https://www.independent.ie/life/health-wellbeing/fit-to-be-tried-seaweed-bath/26621877.html 

Magan, M. (2019). Seaweed : Ireland’s nutritional gift from winter. The Irish Times. https://www.irishtimes.com/life-and-style/food-and-drink/seaweed-ireland-s-nutritional-gift-from-winter-1.3759005 

Thompson, S. (2018). Foraging dinner, fresh from an Irish rock pool. The Irish Times. https://www.irishtimes.com/life-and-style/travel/ireland/foraging-dinner-fresh-from-an-irish-rock-pool-1.3382348 

Godin, M. (2020). The Ocean farmers trying to save the world with seaweed. Time. https://time.com/5848994/seaweed-climate-change-solution/ 

Photos by Rory MacCanna: https://www.flickr.com/people/maccannarory/