Written by Vasiliki Makri. This article is adapted with permission from Vasiliki’s (Fer)mental Greens blog.
Bladderwrack is a seaweed that many of you may have seen on a beach walk. Attached to the stones on the shore, bladderwrack (also called fucus vesiculosus, black tang, rockweed, sea grape or bladder fucus) is an easily identifiable seaweed with toothed ends, a wiry tough stem and leaves that are a bit leathery. The leaves have round air bubbles on the end that give it the name bladderwrack. In young plants, these air bubbles are missing.
These little brown algae have some really interesting medicinal properties. For instance, bladderwrack is very high in iodine and can be used in the treatment of thyroid problems. It also might have antidiabetic effects and people use it also for obesity, ageing skin and other conditions. Bladderwrack was first mentioned by the Greek physician Dioscorides in his “De Materia Medica”, where he recommended it for “gouty afflictions” and inflammation.
Today bladderwrack is sold as a nutritional supplement. However care is needed when consumed because of the high iodine levels and also because it is an anticoagulant and should not be taken by anyone taking warfarin, or before a surgery.
In folklore, bladderwrack is a herb of protection especially for sailors, and it has also been used to predict the weather. It is said that if you hang the seaweed from a string and it dries out, then dry weather is afoot, whereas if it remains wet, there is rain coming. It is also a symbol for financial prosperity and some people keep it dried inside their purse or in the entrance of their home. And In Japanese folklore, bladderwrack was said to enhance a woman’s beauty and give her beautiful hair.
Bladderwrack has many interesting culinary uses as well. It is a great seaweed to dry as it is quite leathery and produces a crispy result that can be powdered and used as a seasoning in risottos, stews and salads. If fresh, it can be steamed or cooked as a side to seafood dishes. In the Channel Islands its smoke is used to dry bacon and fish, and in the Hebrides, cheeses are covered with the salty ashes while drying.
Visit https://fermentalgreens.com for a recipe for wild Lancashire winter miso made with bladderwrack, sea beet and wild radish.