I am not suggesting that you rush out onto the foreshore to start collecting and make your own Laver, but it shows you the lengths mothers generally went to, to feed their families. If you were to accept the media as being true, you would think that this seaweed was only collected and eaten in Wales. This is not so. The seaweed, known as Porphyra, is widely available on both sides of the Bristol Channel and has been used by hungry discerning foodies both here and in Wales.
I expect you have seen the seaweed, like large sheets of plastic, growing and sticking to the large boulders and rocks on beaches. It starts to grow in the summer when it is a bright green. As the season progresses it turns brown and then in winter, when ready to pick, it is almost black. One ‘leaf’ when held out is about 5-10” across and shaped like a large tobacco leaf. Traditionally, it is only picked when there is an ‘R’ in the month, meaning the Winter months.
An average amount to collect would be enough to lightly fill a carrier bag. You will find that when you come to clean it you seem to have collected half the beach as well. This means it has to be picked over for stray shells and odd weed, then washed and washed to remove all the sand. There is nothing worse than gritting your teeth on sand when eating your breakfast. This means somewhere in the region of 6 to 7 times. In fact I was told, just when you think it is clean, you give it another wash.
Then it has to be minced. Quite a task as you will find when you handle the stuff, as it is quite resilient and bounces back from the mincer. Next, place it in a large saucepan with a little water, a cupful of vinegar and some salt. This is to be cooked for about an hour, stirring at regular intervals. It’s like Spinach, its volume will decrease during cooking. Turn off the heat, put on the lid and leave to cool.
The best way to obtain your Laver is to find a good fishmonger or butcher who sells it (there are quite a few in the area) and buy your half pound when you need it. Although only available for picking during Winter, it can be frozen and so is available in the shops most of the year.
TO COOK LAVER – The most common way is to pat into small cakes with seasoned flour or oatmeal, or even porridge oats and fry alongside the bacon for breakfast. Serve immediately.
POOR MAN’S CAVIAR – After making hot buttered toast, spread the laver as bought in a thin layer and serve. Decorate with curls of lemon and you have a talking point at your next buffet party.