Before you set off with just your bucket and spade and sea-air appetite for company, find out more about the recipes and history of food foraging in the area and some insider tips from the local experts.
Llys Meddyg, the historic doctor’s surgery- turned boutique hotel and restaurant in Newport, Pembs, has established its reputation on its approachable service and fine local, seasonal food. Hotel owner Ed Sykes also runs short courses in foraging from Llys Meddyg, where guests and visitors can join him on private trips finding - and cooking - the best local produce served up on the restaurant menu. Popular sessions with Llys Meddyg include hunting for razor clams on sandy beaches, followed by a delicious cook-off back at the hotel. Of course, foraging is a seasonal pursuit, but Llys Meddyg has a variety of courses running throughout the year. In spring, foragers can expect to find sea beet, sea kale and razor clam. In summer, sea buckthorn berries, rock samphire, marsh samphire and sea purslane. Autumn brings razor clam, seaweed, sea buckthorn berries and even in the depths of winter produce is abundant, with cockles, mussels, oysters, winkles and sea spinach all on the menu.
In the south of the county (which is home to the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, the only national park in the UK established primarily because of the coastline) the Pembrokeshire Beach Food Company is bringing the ancient practice of seaweed foraging and drying back to the masses with its innovative, award-winning recipes and products.
A single preserved seaweed drying hut on the windswept grassy dunes of Freshwater West serves as a reminder of the area’s history of seaweed foraging, which some say dates back to the time of the Vikings, but Johnathan Williams, owner of the Pembrokeshire Beach Food Company, has brought seaweed back to the 21st Century with a bang.
The company’s team of ‘mermaid’ seaweed pickers source seaweed directly from the rock pools of Freshwater West, and the team’s range of seasonings like Welshman’s Caviar (dried flakes of seaweed seasoning) and Mermaid Confetti (toasted laver seaweed with Halen Môn sea salt crystals) have proven a huge hit and is stocked in high-end delis and food stores throughout the UK. Their range of foraged food and drink continues to grow with Welsh Sea Black Butter, Captain Cat’s Mor Seasoning, Barti Ddu’s Rum and Cwrwgl (Welsh seaweed beer).
For the freshest taste of Pembrokeshire seafood head to Cafe Môr, a beach shack run by the Pembrokeshire Beach Food company right on Freshwater West itself from April- September. Powered by solar and wind energy, this is where you can try their famous Pembrokeshire lobster rolls - meat from half a lobster in a lightly toasted roll served with Welsh Black Sea Butter. And if you’re hungry after a long day surfing at ‘Freshwest’, the Cafe Môr burger – a 5oz burger made with 100 percent Welsh beef and laverbread (Welsh seaweed) in a lightly toasted chunky white roll with bacon, home-made pickles, cheese, Welsh Sea black butter and home-made ‘Kelpchup’ - is sure to hit the spot.
The website also includes some taster recipes from the Pembrokeshire coastline’s bounty; rock samphire, watermelon and tomato salad would be the ideal side dish for some flame-cooked fish in the summer, or a lentil, vegetable and seaweed stew for a coastal winter-warmer. Based in the tiny cathedral city of St Davids, Wild About Pembrokeshire also run guided trips, and now include a special children’s seashore foraging and beach-fire course.
Little beach combers will love the chance to collect and get up close with seaweed, molluscs and seashore plants before learning how to prepare, cook and eat the wild ingredients over the campfire; an experience sure to inspire the next generation of seashore foragers.