All about Vraic

Vraic  is a word found only in the Channel Islands and means seaweed
 It is a Guernesiais word which of course derives from Norman French. The Normans were Norse Men and we find the word 'wrack' in old norse.
 Wrack' is common in English names of seaweed. Interestingly the French, Italian and German words for seaweed are Algue, alga and Algen respectively. No trace of wrack there but a reminder of what the experts will all tell us first off - seaweed is not a weed it is an algae.
 Vraic gathering and use (although called many different things) has been around amongst littoral peoples across the whole world since time immemorial. References to its use began to be recorded in the 16th and 17th centuries. A Guernsey Royal Court ruling was passed in 1535, for example, regarding th ecurring of Vraic, but there is no doubt the practice had been long established before then.
 The burning of Vraic produces potash which is an ingredient in gunpowder and it is said that Napoleon regularised and encouraged the practice in Brittany in the 1700's
 An Irish monk's poem from the 11th century records
 "A while gathering dillisk from the rock,
 a while fishing,
 a while giving food to the poor,
 a while in a cell."

Humankind has used seaweeds for thousands of years. Through archaeological evidence we know that man in Monte Verde, Southern Chile has harvested, preserved seaweed for long term storage and used seaweeds for food and medicinal purposes for upwards of 20,000 years.
 This fact becomes more amazing when you consider that archaeologists can only demonstrate that people of the pre-Neolithic era at around 11,500 or so years ago were storing grain on the banks of the river Jordan in silos.
 Arable farming in the UK, for example, only began 5,000 years ago during the neolithic period, the earliest records denote the usage of seaweeds as fertiliser, this use stems from the high vitamin and mineral content of these algae.
 This was easily observed by early farmers before the advent of the Haber-Bosh process used to fix nitrogen for the industrial production of fertiliser.

This was common practice during the seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth centuries where the ash of brown seaweeds or kelps was produced from burning this sea vegetable, indeed the name kelp is an archaic term that has since been retained for various brown seaweeds ranging from Acophyllum nodosum to Fucus serratu