Sluichean is an Irish name for seagrass that is harvested on the Atlantic coastline from Christmas to May. It is high in iron, calcium, folic acid, fiber, essential fatty acids and vitamins A,E,K and B complex and has been an important source of nutrition for the Irish through the centuries. I drove down to Creegh and Bridget and I put on or wellies, packed the truck with buckets and headed to a gorgeous stretch of beach. It turned out to be another sunny spring day but the wind was kicking up so we bundled up and made our way across the glistening rocks. The beach, from the rough blue sea to the pure white rocks at the border of the high tides, is a panorama of color in low tide. White sand, an array of rocks from small pebbles to huge boulders, covered with plant and fish life all shimmered in the sun. We headed for the middle stretch of rocks, covered with a shiney surface of sluichean. To pick you grab a handle from the bottom of the rock, which is usually sitting in a little pool of water, and peel gently back. You have to avoid pulling the green algea which sits underneath it and and from gathering too much with a lot of sand on it. There were a couple of lads gathering who told us the best way to harvest is to rinse the sluichean in the little pools because rinsing in the seawater makes the finished product taste better. In an hour and a half we collected 2 buckets. It’s a lot of stretching! I took a small bag home thinking that it wouldn’t go far and I just want to experiment cooking with it anyway. To my surprise, when I washed it, it expanded to about 5x the volume! It took 5 washings to rid it of all the sand. Here’s the recipe I came up with for Sluichean Soup, gluten and dairy free.
Put washed sluichean into a big soup pot and put it on a low boil for an hour. As it boiled, it shrunk but still I had loads to work with. After the first hour, it was wilting and getting mushy so I added 1 chopped whole leek (whites and greens), 2 cloves garlic, a dozen small chopped button mushrooms, 4 large chopped carrots and 4 large chopped potatoes. Sprinkle in cracked pepper and it’s done. I brought it to a friends house for dinner and the 4 of us were amazed at how delicate and tasty it was. No herbs, no stock, just the seaweed and vegetables. A perfect soup, simple, great tasting and highly nutritious. After speaking with some folks about this, I was told that it can also be dried and consumed that way. So, that’s for the next picking! A gardening experience of another kind in Eire!
Pictures: one of the lads, Bridget with the sea in the background, me collecting from the bottom of the rock, white rocks at high tide marker, sluichean on the rocks, sluichean when cooked, a bowl of sluichean vegetable soup.