A FALMOUTH man has been granted the first licence in England to harvest and sell seaweed to eat.
But Rory MacPhee will not be pulling swathes off the beaches – the 'sea vegetables' will be taken from below the water mark.
He has been given an experimental licence by the Crown Estate to handpick it from around the Lizard.
He described it as a "tremendously exciting development" for Cornwall which could become a vibrant industry.
The boatbuilder, furniture-maker and former shipping lawyer and lecturer at Falmouth Marine School wanted to go back into business and realised that no one picked seaweed in Cornwall.
"I couldn't understand it," he said. "It has got incredible nutritional health benefits. My gran used to take it with milk and honey to stave off illness rather than taking pills."
As part of the licence, he has to prove his harvesting will cause no ecological damage.
Mr MacPhee wants the British to take seaweed to their culinary hearts in the way the Japanese do, using it as a key ingredient to achieve the so-called fifth taste, known as umami.
He said: "It is extremely tasty and a lot of the top chefs are beginning to use it.
"It can be used in soup and bread and is a great substitute for bacon when smoked."
He is a founder member of the Seaweed Health Foundation which promotes research into seaweed as part of a healthy diet.
This month he will be doing a cookery demonstration for 120 food writers and chefs at the Experimental Food Society Spectacular in London.
Once he has gathered the seaweed, often from remote coastline, he flattens out the leaves, laying it on rocks to dry in the sun. He then grinds the strips into powder.
Mr MacPhee also sees harvesting as a valuable commercial resource that could be a successful industry.
"In these days of economic doom and gloom the food market remains strong, with a tremendously exciting new development gathering and selling sea vegetables," he added.
"Of course, it all has to be done with legal permissions and consents to ensure good quality food and ecological sustainability."
For more information visit www.falassa.co.uk