LAVERBREAD is as Welsh as our unspoilt rolling moorlands, mellifluous male voice choirs and long place names.
Described by the Lonely Planet travel guide as a "nicer-than-you'd-think seaweed concoction" the shiny black delicacy has been eaten in Britain for centuries.
Laver (porphyra umbilicalis) lies flat on rocks with its long flowing fronds under water. It is particularly found in parts of Gower though a lot of commercial laver used in the UK is harvested from Scotland.
Laver is unique among seaweeds being only one cell thick.
It is known as nori in Japan where locals cannot get enough of it. A total of nine billion sheets of nori are consumed there each year, mostly in sushi meals.
Laverbread was probably first eaten as "survival food" possibly by people forced from their homes and usual food sources by Roman or Viking invaders.
Camden's Britannica recorded it as a food in 1607. It was referred to as "lhawvan".
The journal described it being harvested from Eglwys Abernon Beach near St Davids in Pembrokeshire and in 1797 it was reported that earthenware jars of pickled porphyra were being exported from Watchet in Somerset.
When coal mining was widespread in Wales, laverbread (a mixture of seaweed and oatmeal) and bacon, mushrooms and sausages became a staple breakfast for hard-working pitmen who needed plenty of energy.
In 1865 George Borrow on his travels through "Wild Wales" mentioned "moor mutton and piping hot laver sauce" as one of South Wales' great dishes.
Seaweed eating is not only tasty, it is good for you. One scientific study after another has testified to the health giving qualities of the wavy weed which is said to get its goodness by being bathed in the mineral rich sea. It contains more than 50 known minerals and trace elements regarded as essential body requirements. It provides high quantities of potassium, iodine, iron, magnesium and calcium.
Laverbread is so healthy it could even help after a nuclear pollution incident. It contains sodium alginate, a compound which binds with heavy metals found in the gastrointestinal tract forming a gel-like salt which has been said to eliminate radioactive and environmental contaminants.
And seaweeds are healing to the mucous membranes, promote healthy skin, and also enhance the flexibility and mobility of joints.
Many seaweed species grow across the intertidal zone and below low water from the Arctic to North Africa and other similar latitudes.
The edible types can be roughly categorised into the finer weeds as laver and sea lettuce, the short stemmed as dulse, Irish moss or Carragheen and "horse tail" kelps which grow on or below the tide mark.
Laver is the most prized for its versatility in cooking.
And at this time of the year it could save thousands of lives and free up as many hospital beds. Scientists in Japan believe laverbread could be used to fight "the winter killer", flu. Researchers at Saga University have identified a chemical known as MC26 in laverbread which could even be used to fight Aids. Yuto Karmei, who led the study, said MC26 was more successful in fighting flu than amantadine hydrochloride which forms the basis of many modern flu remedies.
Welsh chefs use laverbread in a variety of ways with the traditional breakfast mixture of laverbread, cockles bacon, mushrooms and sausages greeting hotel guests across the nation.
Other recipes include laver sauces for canapes, laverbread dahl, black risotto, lamb with laver pesto and laver ravioli.