Botanical name : Chondrus crispus
Common names : Carragheen, Irish Moss, Carrageen Moss
Physical appearance : A seaweed which grows in clusters of purple-brown fonds, up to 20 cm in length. Carragheen has characteristically flat stalks which repeatedly branch into a fan shape. Although Carragheen falls into the category of "Rhodophyceae" or red seaweeds, it can appear in a variety of colours ranging from brown, to green, to bright pink.
Edible parts : The plant is edible in its entirety. although removing tougher stalks is recommended.
Best places to find : Most readily found on stones and rocks on Atlantic shores, in tidal and sub tidal pools.
Time of year : Best gathered in April and May.
Serving suggestions : The leaves can be boiled briefly and eaten.
Can also be used to make Irish Moss Blancmange or Jelly (a sweet, milk based dessert, similar to panacotta.
Other uses : Carragheen is a great source of alginates, vegetable gelatines, which can be used in thickening soups, emulsifying ice creams and setting jellies.
Carragheen is also used in the beer "fining" process, particularly in the home brewing industry.
Carragheen is a good source of iodine and sulfur and contains approximately 10% protein.
NB - Please be sure you know what you are picking. Many plants look similar to one another and many can be poisonous! Please seek professional instruction if you are unsure! Don't risk your life!!!
Photos courtesy of User:Kontos, CC BY-SA 3.0 <http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/>, via Wikimedia Commons