6 reasons why you should be a seashore forager

Britain’s seashores are surely some of the country’s prettiest spots but they’re not just good to look at. Our craggy rocks, jagged shorelines and quiet estuaries are teeming with edible plants, shellfish and crustaceans - if you know where to look. Foraging guru, John Wright from River Cottage and author of River Cottage Handbook Edible Seashore, points us in the right direction.

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Ditch the plastic wrap and the supermarkets, grab a bucket and some waterproof shoes and let’s hit the shoreline.

Everyone can be a seashore forager

“It’s funny it’s the people who might not think of foraging as a fun thing to do, or who are on my course as someone’s partner, they’re the ones that have to be dragged away at the end of the day because they love it,” explains Wright.

He has been running River Cottage’s foraging courses for years and takes eager eyes along the shores of Dorset to discover the enormous larder that exists on the fringes of our island, where the rock pools and craggy cliffs meet the blustery sea.

“Everyone’s good at it – we’re designed to do it and we’re designed to enjoy doing it,” says Wright.

Forage enough to make a meal

While foraging is often soaked in pastoral romance and the idea of eating off the land, it’s not often you can forage enough to actually make an entire meal. Not so with foraging down on the seashore.

“We find plants, seaweed and crustaceans, shellfish like brown or velvet crabs and shrimps and prawns and winkles, cockles, clams, razor clams and then there’s nine edible species of seaweed,” explains Wright. “Seashore foraging is the most productive of any foraging – it’s why our ancestors made their villages and forts near estuaries and shorelines – it’s always been a readily available source of food.”

You can only forage slowly

Slow down and smell the sea. Seriously, you can’t forage and find delicious cockles or amazing plants if you’re striding along thinking about all the emails you need to reply to. Slow yourself, stop and look properly.

“It stops the landscape and the seashore being a backdrop to your life,” says Wright. “Sometimes on my foraging trips we find 40 different things and people are amazed at the diversity of what we find. I don’t take people anywhere special, it’s just I slow down and make people really look at what’s around them.”

Discover how amazing seaweed actually is

Seaweed is still vastly underrated and massively underused. It’s something Wright is personally trying to change.

“I’m trying to get Brits to embrace seaweed and move it into the mainstream,” explains Wright. “It’s high in iodine, which most of us are deficient in and packed with Vitamin D and B12, it’s a really versatile ingredient. You wouldn’t boil it and eat a plate of it, but it’s full of unami flavour and you just have to approach it differently and know what to do with it.”

“I make dulse dust with dulse seaweed. I collect about 20 kilos a year and wash it and dry it out in the oven for hours. It will go green and then you blend it until it becomes like dust. It has an amazing salty flavour and I use it like a seasoning – it goes in everything in our house.”

(For more reasons why you should include seaweed in your life read our seaweed feature).

Connect with the coast

The UK has just under 12,500 kms of coastline from the white cliffs of Dover to the fragmented fingers of the Scottish islands. While most of us flock to the same boring bits of sand during the summer months, foragers are out discovering the beautiful bits that not many see and have a deeper connection with their local landscape.

“Head for the wilder looking bits of coast, the intricate bits of rock seashore or muddy estuaries, this is where you’ll find plants and shellfish,” says Wright. “Generally speaking people who forage are more appreciative of the environment than the people who don’t because they’re closer to nature. It becomes your backyard and part of your life and not part of something that’s other to you.”

Seashore forage all year round

While some foraging can only be done at certain times of the year, you can be certain that there’s stuff for you below the tide all year round. Grab a tide timetable for your local spot of shoreline and head down when the tide’s at its lowest.

“You can forage along the shore all year round but the heavier spring tides are the best time,” explains Wright.

Do remember to only take what you need, to respect the local landscape and leave only footprints.

Learn how to forage for British plants – even if you’re a beginner – here.