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Carrageen / Irish Moss / Chondrus crispus
- Phylum : Rhodophyta
- Class : Florideophyceae
- Order : Gigartinales
- Family : Gigartinaceae
- Genus : Chondrus
- Species : Chondrus crispus (Stackhouse)
Common Names : Carrageen Moss, Carrageen, Carragheen, Irish Moss, Jelly Moss
Irish – Carraigín – Little rock
Carrageen / Irish Moss – Chondrus crispus – is a common red seaweed found on both sides of the Altantic Ocean, along the Canadian shoreline and from Iceland to Spain and Portugal. It can be found on the mid to low shore in poorly drained rock pools and surfaces.
Carrageen / Irish Moss – Chondrus crispus – is a red macro alga / seaweed that rarely exceeds 15cm / 20cm in height. Its branches / fronds are 2 to 15mm broad, firm in texture, broadening out in a fan shape. It is dark red brown in colour but bleaching to white / yellow in sunlight.
Underwater the tips of Carrageen / Irish Moss – Chondrus crispus – often have a violet iridescence that disappears when the plant is out of the water.
History and Uses :
Carrageen / Irish Moss – Chondrus crispus – has long been known for its gelling properties and it is one of the industrial sources of Carrageenan – which is commonly used as a thickener and stabilizer in milk products, ie ice cream and processed foods. It is E407 or E407b.
It is the hydrocolloid carrageenan with the plant that produces this gelling property. It is this property that makes carrageenan a low cost food ingredient for its thickening, suspension, preservative and fat and milk-protein stabilization abilities.
Food applications for carrageenans (E407 and E407b) are numerous – e.g., canned food, including canned pet food, dessert mousses, salad dressings and instant desserts.
Industrial applications for carrageenans and Carrageen are also diverse and numerous – e.g., clarifying beer, wine and honeys. With beer clarification, a small amount of Carrageen / Irish Moss / Chondrus crispus is boiled with the wort. It extracts the proteins and other solids which can then be removed from the mixture after cooling.
Traditionally carrageenans were used in the soap industry, leather curing, calico printing, paper marbling and in the manufacture of paper and linen to help produce a soft finish to the material to help any print adhere to it.
Today carrageenan uses are so diverse, you have probably consumed it and other seaweed / algae extracts without knowing it. They are used in various foodstuffs, toothpaste and creams and lotions.
Traditional Medical Uses :-
Carrageen / Irish Moss / Chondrus crispus has traditionally been used for numerous medical applications, some dating back to the 1830s.
It is still used today to make traditional medicinal teas and cough medicines, to combat colds, bronchitis and chronic coughs. In Venezuela, Ireland and Scotland, it is boiled with milk and honey is added as a home remedy for sore throats and chest congestions. Its has also know anti-viral properties.
In Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago, it is boiled with milk and cinnamon to make the thick drink “Irish Moss” and its believed to be an aphrodisiac (!)
Carrageenan is also used as a suspension agent and stabiliser in lotions and medicinal creams.