Monday 15 April 2013

M is for Mother of the Sea ...

In Japan Kathleen Drew-Baker’s (1901-1957) work is celebrated on April 14th, yesterday, where she is hailed as the “Mother of the Sea”.  She was a phycologist ... a person who studies algae, including seaweeds and who spent much of her academic life at Manchester University.
Red Dulse

Her studies were recognised in Japan and she is credited with revolutionising the Japanese nori culture (edible seaweed) through artificial seeding techniques.

Nori sheets
For hundreds of years fishermen who lived in isolated communities used seaweed as part of their staple diet ... in Cornwall, Devon, Wales and Ireland the tradition of eating fresh laver (a type of seaweed) and making laverbread has continued.

Richard Burton has been attributed as describing laverbread as “Welshman’s caviar” ...

Fresh Welsh Laverbread

Over 650 varieties of seaweed grow around the UK of those about 35 have been used for food ... once again the artisan-entrepreneurs are opening those doors for us to benefit from its natural attributes.
Sea Spaghetti

Among the varieties that grow around our Sussex shoreline are Sea Lettuce which has a soft delicate flavour; Dulse which has traditionally been added to bread; Mosses which can be added to salads or soups, and Sea Spaghetti which is great as a stir fried vegetable.

Seaweed contains protein along with valuable trace minerals, vitamins and iodine ... today scientific research has shown that iodine in the air from seaweed can be absorbed through the skin and lungs ... so the Victorian maxim of “taking the sea air” had some truth in it.

Taking the air along Penzance promenade
in Cornwall
Most of us may only be familiar with seaweed through eating Sushi or Chinese crispy seaweed (often made from vegetables).  But in Japan the health benefits from seaweed are taken seriously ... many Japanese mothers would not dream of sending their children off to school without their daily lunchbox containing some seaweed.

Nori Sushi
Before the Mother of the Sea’s research ... seaweed was known as the “gambler’s  harvest” because it was impossible to predict when the sea green would be available ... Drew-Baker overcame that challenge ... earning her honorary title ‘Mother of the Sea’

That is M for ‘Mother of the Sea’ ... Kathleen Drew-Baker

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories


Patsy said...

Seaweed is a great tonic for plants so I use it quite a lot on my allotment. I'm hoping that eating healthy plants will keep me healthy!

Francene Stanley said...

Great article. As a child, I grew up by the sea. Back then, in the 1940's in Australia, we never considered eating seaweed although I know all of those you mention. I remember an old radio advertisment about Irish cough-lollies. "The petro-oxidal of carrigean" still rings through my mind. Probably spelled differently though.
A - Z Challenge

Rosalind Adam said...

I love taking the sea air but I've never eaten seaweed. Have to say it doesn't sound tempting!

Old Kitty said...

Mother of the Sea!! What a lovely title and a most amazing info on this fab woman!!!

Oh this reminds me of samphire! Well - it's not strictly seaweed but it's the closest to sea greens that I like! LOL! Take care

Marja said...

I love Sushi I had A Japanese friend and she used to get her seaweed al the way from Japan. Should have asked her why it isn't available in shops in NZ

J.L. Murphey said...

Being half Japanese, I've grown up with seaweed as part of my diet. It's a little utilized green vegetable.

Su-sieee! Mac said...

I learned so much from this post. Thank you. Seaweed is one of my favorite foods. When I was a kid, our family went off to Monterey Bay for Sunday picnics. While the Daddy BBQ'd, the Mama collected seaweed from the rocks. This was before collecting became illegal.

Don't be a Hippie
Take 25 to Hollister

A Lady's Life said...

Definitely sea weed is an excellent source of iodine but lately we have to be careful eating it due to ocean pollution.
Man destroys everything.

Sue McPeak said...

You are the 'Learning Blog' for this Challenge, and I'm so glad I've clicked in for your daily 'Foodie' info. Incredible...650 varieties of edible weed.

We eat weeds in West Texas, too...just not from the sea unless you think of the now dried up Permian Basin, as a sea...which it was eons ago. It now produces Black Gold, a few edible weeds and Sage. Mmmm, might be a post topic, huh?

My Letter 'M'...Modern Marvels
Sue CollectInTexasGal
AtoZ LoneStar Quilting Bee

Nick Wilford said...

Sounds like a fascinating woman. I never realised laver bread was made from seaweed... now I feel like an ignoramus!

Optimistic Existentialist said...

What a wonderful tribute to Ms.Kathleen Drew-Baker. Very interesting!

Hart Johnson said...

So interesting! I've had seaweed with sushi quite a bit, and there are some Hawaiian dishes that use it. And then there is a spanish salady-think I had at a restaurant once that was alright. I had no idea that Britain had any havens for seaweed use though, especially in a bread.

Unknown said...

My mother is Japanese and because of that, we ate a lot of nori or seaweed growing up. I love the taste of it and use it with rice.

T. Powell Coltrin said...

Isn't it funny the things that people eat because of the area they live in. I don't have seaweed here in MO, but I would like to try it sometime - in some of food.

Mary Aalgaard said...

I've only had seaweed in sushi. Sounds like it could be good, and good for you!

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Tina said...

Oh I love sushi, and when I was visiting a friend in the Pacific Northwest, I got to eat the nori plain since it was available everywhere. My boys were freaked out, but they're the ones who eat the Swedish Kalle's Kaviar like crazy...
I didn't know seaweed had so many other uses, but I do always learn something here!

Tina @ Life is Good
Co-host, April 2013 A-Z Challenge Blog
@TinaLifeisGood, #atozchallenge

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

650 varieties of seaweed...and just around the UK? I had no idea!

cleemckenzie said...

Thanks for telling me about Ms. Drew-Baker. That only adds to my appreciation for seaweed. I eat seaweed salad by the pounds. It's so delicious. Glad it's also good for me.

Kittie Howard said...

Great choice! When we lived in Hawaii, a mom and pop restaurant not far away usually had seaweed soup on the menu. I can taste it now -- delicious!

Lisa said...

Since I don't eat fish or seafood, I "take" Spirolina, which is kelp, to help with the lack in my diet. I WISH I liked fish and seafood but can't seem to get over the taste of them. Even seaweed tastes "fishy" to me and I have to hold my nose to eat it! I really enjoyed this post and am grateful not only to you for introducing us to The Mother of The Sea, but to her as well for helping us understand and use this great food.

Jo said...

I am familiar with nori and another seaweed the Japanese use, can't remember the name right now, great flavour. I have also heard of laver bread but had no idea it was made with seaweed. I didn't know most of what your blog was about today and found it great reading. Thanks for the info Hilary.


Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Patsy - yes .. we used to collect it in Cornwall and bring it back for my grandparent's garden! Healthy plants should keep you both healthy, wealthy? and wise ... !!

@ Francene - nor did we eat seaweed as kids ... even though we holidayed all the time by the sea in Cornwall.

It appears that Carrageenan has been used for centuries and realised for its health properties and is used in many areas - but colds definitely occur .. so I'm sure your Carrageenan lozenges were good for your colds and coughs. Interesting you remembered - thanks for adding this snippet.

@ Ros - I don't think we did .. til recently - when the benefits were realised. There are so many varieties now-a-days aren't there .. somewhere there'd be one you'd like - I'm sure!

@ Old Kitty - I was delighted to find out about Kathleen Drew-Baker .. amazing lady, as you say.

Samphire is delicious too, I agree - ok and it's the nearest you're getting to seaweed ... well better than nothing I guess!

@ Marja - well your Japanese friend knows that seaweed is an essential to life doesn't she .. and I suppose she was getting 'her brand' .. so she trusted it.

@ JL - we obviously need to learn from you ... and the fact you're half Japanese ... means you know what you're talking about! I'll have to keep my eyes open for some Sussex seaweed - as I live in Sussex - and see if it's available here.

@ Su-siee – we went to the seaside but to collect the seaweed ... not to eat it ... really interesting to read your family snippet ... well it’s probably a good thing collection is regulated – so much damage is done by irresponsible foragers .. very sad.

@ A Lady’s Life – fortunately our testing of our foods is pretty good .. so we can access healthy seaweed ... but we do mess around with ‘life’ don’t we ..

@ Sue – many thanks .. just appreciate the comment – I just like posting about different subjects, or taking a different approach ..

Do you eat weeds in Texas .. and the Permian basin .. I’d never heard of – I guess full of oil ... a few edible weeds and sage – interesting combination .. and would make a good blog post!

@ Nick – well honestly Nick .. there’s so many things that are so obvious when we know about them .. but until then – it’s a blank – same for me .. I did know about laver bread, but I’m not sure I’ve eaten it – next time in Wales .. I must try some. So you’re not an ignoramus by any stretch of the imagination ..

@ Keith – I was fascinated to learn about her as well, so I’m delighted you enjoyed the post ..

Cheers to you all - Hilary

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Hart – I’m amazed at what I learn or the snippets I pick up – they amuse me .. so am delighted you are interested too ... I’ll be trying more Sushi and one day might get to Hawaii ... and the Spanish salady thingie – I’ll have to keep my eyes out for!

@ Clarissa – ooh – I’d love to come and have lessons with you ... your mother must have added to your food cultural knowledge so much ... I’ll have to find out some more ...and try it in rice ..

@ Teresa – as you say, we try things from the area we live in ... yet only now do we cultivate seaweed in England ... that’s excellent that you’d like to try some seaweed – a trip to the coast is in order!

@ Mary – exactly ... seaweed is good for you and would taste good too ..

@ Tina – that’s so interesting that nori is harvested in the Pacific NW – perhaps because of the Japanese peoples settling on the west coast ...

Your boys with their Kalles Kaviar .. I had to look up – but sounds a very good alternative and an interesting fish-paste ... now I’m into Swedish foods!

@ Elizabeth – nor did I know we had that many varieties of seaweed ... and that we use some in our recipes ... the Sussex ones I’ll have to find out more about ..

@ Lee – I loved that learning about Ms Drew-Baker ... so interesting how people and ideas travel backwards and forwards ... I must now definitely look out for seaweed salad ... I wonder if I can get it out of London ... I’ll check!

@ Kittie – it’s interesting that Hawaii keeps coming up .. and the local restaurant served seaweed soup ... I love remembering flavours – so good for the memory bank – now I want to try that soup!

@ Lisa – I’d forgotten about “Spriolina” – which I know about ... and the value of Kelp ... I’m sorry that you can’t stand the taste or smell of fish .. but am so pleased you enjoyed reading about The Mother of the Sea ...

@ Jo – I just learn so much as I blog – some I’m aware of .. other aspects I just gather as I go along ... so pleased you enjoyed the post ..

Cheers to you all – it’s lovely having so many comments with added extras ... Hilary

Julie Flanders said...

Sounds like a fascinating woman. I'd never heard of her before so this was so interesting to read.

Inger said...

What an interesting post, I never ran into that Welsh caviar when I lived in the UK. One always learns so much from your posts. Love it!

nutschell said...

i do love nori! and i love learning about who got it started!


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I used to live in Japan and seaweed is definitely a staple.

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

This was so interesting, Hilary. She sounds like quite the woman. I wanted to tell you, I finally saw that program about Scientific Eve and Scientific Adam. Fascinating. My son had dropped by and ended up watching the entire program with me.

Vallypee said...

Great post again, Hilary! Fascinating stuff!

Anonymous said...

Hilary, surely we cannot be on "M' already? I need to go back and read the rest of the alphabet. Meanwhile, I enjoyed your 'Mother of the Sea' item, I can almost smell the seaweed! :-) Debbie X

Deniz Bevan said...

Love learning new things when I visit your blog!

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

I have friends, who lived in Korea for several years. They developed a taste for seaweed. I tried it once at their house. They needn't worry about me eating their supply.

Julia Hones said...

My mother has always loved seaweed. She liked to add it to meals because she said it was healthy. Fabulous post, Hilary. Thanks.

Chuck said...

I have read that seaweed is extremely healthy for you. I have taken it in supplement form before but I would like to try some cooked seaweed at least once.

Strangest thing I have ever had with seaweed in it...a milkshake! Years ago when I worked in the fast food industry, I found out our milkshake mix contained seaweed.

Chuck at Apocalypse Now

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Julie - thanks - she was an interesting find and I was happy to write about her.

@ Inger - Richard Burton was I think being derogatory .. but it gives a bit of 'zing' to laverbread if he says it ...!

@ Nutschell - I'm sure you love nori .. and you can get it being on the west coast ... do the Philippinos eat a lot of seaweed?

@ Alex - it'd be interesting one day to hear some more memories of your time in Japan ..

@ Joylene - you wonder sometimes how people end up studying what they do study ... and then can help another nation along the way. Glad you enjoyed the post.

Is that what they called the programme for overseas viewers .. Scientific Eve and Adam .. (my four posts in March on Icehouse Earth, Greenhouse Earth and Life in Between) ... I'm so pleased you and your son enjoyed the presentations ... I just thought it was so interesting ...

@ Val - many thanks ..

@ Deborah - the A - Z does rock around rather quickly doesn't it! Hope you enjoy the rest of the posts ... that iodine-ozone smell - yes, I can 'smell' it now!

@ Deniz - always a pleasure to know ..

@ Susan - I'm sure they'll be very happy to know they won't need to share with you!! It's an accustomed taste ..

@ Julia - your mother had the right idea ... and now we know that's true.

@ Chuck - the supplement is regularly available .. and becoming more popular ... that's great you've been using it for a while. I hope you can get to try some in a restaurant sometime ..

Yes, I can believe the milkshake and seaweed - it acts like a thickener and holds the ingredients in suspension .. lipstick has some 'funny' ingredients in it .. such as fish scales in the shimmier lipsticks ..

Thanks everyone - lovely to see you .. and seaweed is an interesting product ... cheers Hilary

MunirGhiasuddin said...

this is very interesting. Now I can brag about knowing something about Seaweed. I don't know too much about Japanese Cuisine. Thanks for sharing:)

Theresa Milstein said...

They sell dried seaweed sheets here as a snack. They're nice and salty, but without much sodium--a neat trick! Too bad they're so expensive at over $1 a package.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Munir - I loved this story of Kathleen the phycologist ... who opened up Japan's shoreline for them again - giving them a livelihood: glad you enjoyed it.

@ Theresa - I know I must look out for seaweed too .. especially if it's available as a savoury snack .. and then I'll have to check the cost - but I'd like to try at some stage!

Sara said...

I enjoyed this post. I didn't know about Kathleen Drew-Baker. There was a lot to learn. I'm not a big fan of Sushi and so I'm not too familiar with eating seaweed, but it's nice to know about the nutritional aspects of this plant.

I liked the names of the seaweeds used for food around your Sussex shoreline. Sea Spaghetti is my favorite name.

How do you do this? Come up with interesting subjects using every letter of the alphabet. It's amazing me, especially since I'm lucky to get one post up and here you are every day with one.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Sara .. nor did I know about Ms Drew-Baker - but she is obviously highly revered and deserves her recognition.

I wonder and would expect that seaweed may well become a staple once again as our economy remains pretty stagnant. I love their names too - and found it interesting to find we have 'so many' around our Sussex shoreline.

I decided my theme last year, and then 'collected' ideas - filled in the spaces using things I came across, or finding something interesting in one of the books I have .. really just curating ideas till I had to actually write each post!! I'm grateful for my brain - it has a way of remembering things!!

Thanks so much for the lovely comment about the Mother of the Sea and my approach .. cheers Hilary