Collecting the folklore and uses of plants

REVIEW: Seaweed in the Kitchen

010Fiona Bird, Seaweed in the Kitchen, London: Prospect Books, 2015.

According to the blurb, Fiona Bird is ‘nothing if not enthusiastic’, and, indeed, her ceaseless enthusiasm fizzes throughout her work.  It’s more than a foraging and recipe book, for it includes chapters on the history of the use of seaweeds around the world, the study of seaweeds, Victorian lady seaweed collectors, seaweeds in agriculture and industry, and their their nutritive and medicinal value.  It also covers various maritime flowering plants, including sea rocket (Calike maritima), sea aster (Aster tripolium), glasswort (Salicornia spp.) and others.  The introductory material occupies 96 pages before the author moves on to the recipes which occupy pp.97-171, leaving five pages on which are given a bibliography, list of suppliers and a ‘table of recipes’ listing which plants are used in each recipe.  The recipes are clearly explained and one gets the impression that the author has prepared each dish many times, seeking to perfect it, though as she rightly states different people have different tastes.

The introductory chapters though basically sound and obviously based on a wide range of sources, can in places be irritatingly repetitive.  Whenever the Irish phycologist Mike Guiry is mentioned it is as ‘Professor Mike Guiry of NUI, Galway’, is this necessary?  There are also a number of mistakes which more vigorous editing would have corrected.

However, regardless of what reviewers write, the real test is whether not not they want to keep the subject of their review.  I plan to keep this book.

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