pepper dulse, truffle of the sea
Osmundea pinnatifida, pepper dulse, is everyone's surprise favourite. Growing a bit further down the tideline, the tiny fronds are submerged during high tide, and being small and inconspicuously coloured, they can be easily overlooked. In spite of its diminutive size, pepper dulse packs a tremendous flavour punch. As the common names suggest, it is spicy with a garlicky, truffely pungency, and while it dries beautifully and then can be coarsely ground and used like salty cracked black pepper to sprinkle on foods (especially delicious on soft boiled eggs or seafood), it is at its very best eaten raw and fresh. While the little fern shaped plants can be harvested year round, early spring is the best time to do so; the plants grow during the cooler temperatures of the winter months, so have now reached full size, and are still the dark purplish brown of young red seaweeds (to which Osmundea pinnatifida belongs). Later in the year they soften and become bleached to yellowish green by the heat and the light of the summer months
When harvesting pepper dulse, bring a small container and scissors. Look for areas where there is plenty of the moss like growth covering the rocks and be careful not to over harvest. Cut the plants with scissors rather than pulling them off the rocks: this way you'll allow the plant to regrow and will also avoid eating crunchy stone and shell pieces.