Laver (seaweed)

Porphyra umbilicalis
Scientific classification
Species: P. umbilicalis
Binomial name
Porphyra umbilicalis
(L.) Kützing
Seaweed, laver, raw
Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)
Energy 146 kJ (35 kcal)
5.11 g
Sugars 0.49 g
Dietary fiber 0.3 g
0.28 g
5.81 g
Vitamins Quantity %DV
Vitamin A equiv.
260 μg
3121 μg
Thiamine (B1)
0.098 mg
Riboflavin (B2)
0.446 mg
Niacin (B3)
1.47 mg
Pantothenic acid (B5)
0.521 mg
Vitamin B6
0.159 mg
Folate (B9)
146 μg
Vitamin C
39 mg
Vitamin E
1 mg
Vitamin K
4 μg
Minerals Quantity %DV
70 mg
1.8 mg
0.988 mg
58 mg
356 mg
48 mg
1.05 mg

Percentages are roughly approximated using US recommendations for adults.
Source: USDA Nutrient Database

Laver (UK: /ˈlɑːvər/, US: /ˈl-/) is an edible, littoral alga (seaweed). It is consumed in East Asia, where it is known as zicai (Chinese: 紫菜; pinyin: Zǐcài) in China, nori (海苔) in Japan, and gim (김) in Korea.

In Wales, laver is used for making laverbread, a traditional Welsh dish. Laver as food is also commonly found around the west coast of Great Britain and east coast of Ireland along the Irish Sea, where it is also known as slake.[1] It is also cultivated in Kobe, Japan and used to make a meat pancake, a local speciality.

It is smooth in texture and forms delicate, sheetlike thalli, often clinging to rocks. The principal variety is purple laver (Porphyra umbilicalis).[2] Purple laver is classified as a red alga, tends to be a brownish colour, but boils down to a dark green pulp when prepared. It is unusual amongst seaweeds because the fronds are only one cell thick.[3][4] Laver has a high content of dietary minerals, particularly iodine and iron. The high iodine content gives the seaweed a distinctive flavour in common with olives and oysters.[5]

Ulva lactuca, a green alga, also known as sea lettuce, is occasionally eaten as green laver, which is regarded as inferior to the purple laver.[6]


Cultivation of laver as food is thought to be very ancient, though the first mention was in Camden's Britannia in the early 17th century.[7] It is plucked from the rocks and given a preliminary rinse in clear water. The collected laver is repeatedly washed to remove sand and boiled for hours until it becomes a stiff, green mush.[8] In this state, the laver can be preserved for about a week. Typically during the 18th century, the mush was packed into a crock and sold as "potted laver".

Laver cultivation is typically associated with Wales, and it is still gathered off the Pembrokeshire and Carmarthenshire coasts,[9] although similar farming methods are used at the west coast of Scotland.

Laver can be eaten cold as a salad with lamb or mutton. A simple preparation is to heat the laver and to add butter and the juice of a lemon or Seville orange. Laver can be heated and served with boiled bacon. It is used to make the Welsh dish known as laverbread.


Laverbread (Welsh: bara lafwr or bara lawr) is a traditional Welsh delicacy made from laver. To make laverbread, the seaweed is boiled for several hours, then minced or pureed. The gelatinous paste that results can then be sold as it is, or rolled in oatmeal; it is generally coated with oatmeal prior to frying.

Laverbread is traditionally eaten fried with bacon and cockles as part of a Welsh breakfast. It can also be used to make a sauce to accompany lamb, crab, monkfish, etc., and to make laver soup (cawl lafwr).[10] Richard Burton has been quoted as describing laverbread as "Welshman's caviar".[11]

Laver is often associated with Penclawdd and its cockles, being used traditionally in the Welsh diet and is still eaten widely across Wales in the form of laverbread. In addition to Wales, laverbread is eaten across the Bristol Channel in North Devon, especially the Exmoor coast around Lynmouth, Combe Martin and Ilfracombe. In North Devon it is generally not cooked with oatmeal and is simply referred to as 'laver' (lay-ver).

Laver is highly nutritious because of its high proportions of protein, iron, and especially iodine. It also contains high levels of vitamins B2, A, D and C.

See also


  1. "British food seaweeds". Everything2. Retrieved 6 May 2012.
  2. "Algaebase :: Species Detail". Retrieved 2008-08-10.
  3. "laverbread – WalesOnline". Retrieved 2008-08-10.
  4. Wells, Emma (2010), A Field Guide to the British Seaweeds, National Marine Biological Analytical Quality Control Scheme (p 24) Archived 2012-03-27 at the Wayback Machine..
  5. "Laver nori". Retrieved 2013-11-01.
  6. "Fact files: Sea lettuce". The Blue Planet. BBC. Archived from the original on February 20, 2011. Retrieved 2008-08-10.
  7. Mason, Laura (2008-05-20). "Great British Bites: laverbread – Times Online". London: Retrieved 2008-08-10.
  8. "Laverbread Parsons Pickles » Home". Retrieved 2008-08-10.
  9. Don, Monty (2001-11-11). "Down your way". The Observer. London. Retrieved 2008-08-10.
  10. "Cawl lafwr (Laver soup)". Traditional Welsh Recipes. Archived from the original on 2010-02-07. Retrieved 2008-08-13.
  11. "Black Mountains Breakfast". Brecon Beacons National Park. Archived from the original on 2008-10-12. Retrieved 2008-08-10.

Also prevalent on the North Devon Coast (Croyde Downend Beach) It was collected and sold in the Barnstaple Markets 1939-42 It was a pick-me-up for ill people but also some liked it fried or boiled. [1]

Resident North Devon 1936-47


  • Lamb, Leeks and Laverbread, Gilli Davies, Grafton (16 Mar 1989), ISBN 0-586-20139-4
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