Thursday, 2 September 2010
Dulse (Palmaria palmata) - From Ballycastle Fair
Some of the boys have been to Ballycastle Fair and brought back some Dulse. I have a packet if anyone wants to try it. I have, and it tastes like, well, like nothing you have ever tasted before...
Dulse is a well-known snack food, and in Iceland, where it is known as söl, it has been an important source of fiber throughout the centuries.
The earliest record of it is of St Columba's monks harvesting it 1,400 years ago.
Dulse grows attached by its discoid holdfast to the stipes of Laminaria or to rocks. It has a short stipe, the fronds are variable and vary in colour from deep-rose to reddish-purple and are rather leathery in texture. The flat foliose blade gradually expands and divides into broad segments ranging in size to 50 cm long and 30 - 8 cm in width which can bear flat wedge-shaped proliferations from the edge.
The full life-history of Dulse was not fully understood until 1980. Tetraspores occur in scattered sori on the mature blade, which is diploid. Spermatial sori occur scattered over most of the frond of the haploid male plant. The female gametophyte is very small stunted or encrusted, the carpogonia apparently occurring as single cells in the young plants. The male plants are blade-like and produce spermatia which fertilize the carpogonia of the female crust. After fertilization the diploid plant overgrows the female plant and develops into the tetrasporangial diploid phase attached to the female gametophyte. The adult foliose tetrasporophyte produces tetraspores meiotically. It is therefore usually the diploid tetrasporic phase or the male plant which is to be found on the shore.
Palmaria palmata is to be found growing from mid-tide of the intertidal zone (the area between the high tide and low tide) to depths of 20 m or more in both sheltered and exposed shores.
Dulse is a good source of minerals and vitamins compared with other vegetables, contains all trace elements needed by humans, and has a high protein content.
It is commonly found from June to September and can be picked by hand when the tide is out. When picked, small snails, shell pieces and other small particles can be washed or shaken off and the plant then spread to dry. Some gatherers may turn it once and roll it into large bales to be packaged later. It is also used as fodder for animals in some countries.
Dulse is commonly used in Ireland, Iceland, Atlantic Canada and the Northeast United States both as food and medicine. It can be found in many health food stores or fish markets and can be ordered directly from local distributors. In Ballycastle, Northern Ireland it is traditionally sold at the Ould Lammas Fair. It is particularly popular along the Causeway Coast.
Fresh dulse can be eaten directly off the rocks before sun-drying. Sun-dried dulse is eaten as is or is ground to flakes or a powder. In Iceland the tradition is to eat it with butter. It can also be pan fried quickly into chips, baked in the oven covered with cheese, with salsa, or simply microwaved briefly. It can also be used in soups, chowders, sandwiches and salads, or added to bread/pizza dough. Finely diced, it can also be used as a flavour enhancer in meat dishes, such as chili, in place of monosodium glutamate.