dulse

Photograph Fi Bird On Christmas Eve at around 4 o'clock you'll find me making mince pies listening to Carols from Kings College
Spring in Britain can be an icy affair but I am always cheered by the bright crimson stems of young rhubarb even its red contrasts the white of snow, as it did recently. Beyond the garden you'll find rhubarb in country lanes and if you are fortunate, you may spy sweet cicely Myrrhis odorata too.
The countryside in spring brings to mind Hardy's story of Tess of the d'Urbervilles and the concern that the butter had a funny twang as a result of the cows having dined on the leaves of wild garlic - wild garlic has both wild scent and a pungent flavour.
I call the lochan by the supermarket of the Isle, Lily Loch. It never ceases to amaze me that such an exotic water plant can clog up Uist ditches and lochs. On a day when the sun shines, a lily clad lochan is heart lifting even in the breezy Outer Hebridean wind.
Some of us who have been cooking with wild seaweed long before it reached its dizzy, new found celebrity status, may think that dulse tastes like bacon but others will disagree. If pushed I'm in the bacon'ish' camp but I'm not overly keen to compare the two.
Over the summer months landlocked folk who holiday by the sea, might check up on tide times and chase a low spring tide (when the sea retreats to expose rocks usually covered by water). Dulse is a delicious red seaweed to look out for
One of my favourite seaweeds to cook with is dulse. It is a ruby, red seaweed, which dries to a deep pink, and turns green when cooked. Dulse grows on rocks in the subtidal zone or sometimes grows as an epiphyte. It often hitches a ride on kelp.The pretty fronds resemble fingers and its stalk (stipes) are short.
As autumn creeps upon us, the Island nights are drawing in. Soon the cows and sheep will return to the machair (fertile land by the sea) and so, local crofters are lifting their crops before the animal are put back to graze.
It is said that whilst coastal Irish and Scottish cows chewed the cud, the farmers chewed the dulse. Raw dulse requires considerable chewing but dried and stir-fried, as in this recipe, it becomes a rather moreish nibble.