Saint Patrick's Day and the shamrock go hand in hand like a Claddagh ring. The four-leafed clover is a jolly sort of plant, full of charm and perfect symmetry. 'Irish moss' on the other hand is not as well known on land, but is pervasive on the rocky shores and tidepools of the North Atlantic and Europe. Irish moss, or carrageen moss (Irish carraigín, "moss of the rock"), is an intricately branched species of red algae (Chondrus crispus). When softened in water it has a sea-like odour, and because of abundant mucilage, it will form a jelly when boiled containing from 20 to 30 times its weight in water. The mucilage present in Irish moss is used in large quantities by the food industry to make jellies or aspic and as a smooth binder.
With the current threat of global warming, Irish moss has recently been detected as losing its usual purplish-brown pigmentation due to a lack of nutrients and the increased presence of other algaes. Paler yellowed Irish moss can now be seen along the shorelines and in tidal pools of our Atlantic waters. Perhaps we should consider 'adopting' and 'highlighting' endangered flora and fauna for our treasured holidays as a means to draw attention to the sustenance that these species provide throughout the year, regardless of season or celebrated occasion.
above photo courtesy of Debbie Mackenzie, http://www.fisherycrisis.com/Galleries/mossgallery.htm