How did The Cornish Seaweed Company begin?
We started off drying seaweed in our caravans in 2012, after learning how to harvest seaweed from a small seaweed company in Donegal, Ireland. Without any funds available it was tough getting it off the ground and we struggled for the first few years. But we were able to ride the wave of (inter)national seaweed publicity that soon followed and grew to become the leading English seaweed company. We now provide jobs for 11 people and set up the first commercially operating UK seaweed farm in 2018. Our products can be found in food stores nationwide, and we have recently started exporting to the EU, while chefs such as Nathan Outlaw, Jamie Oliver, Raymond Blanc and Hugh Fernley-Whittingstall are all customers.
Where do you harvest seaweed?
We forage seaweed off the coast of the Lizard Peninsula. We make sure that we do this sustainably, as the environment is our main concern. To this end, we only harvest part of the different plants, basically giving them a haircut or pruning them, to allow regrowth. We take our small boat to the harvest site, then either free dive or harvest from the rocks around spring low tides using nothing but buckets and scissors. Seaweed can grow so fast, we recorded regrowth rates of up to 140% in 4 weeks! We rotate the area and species we harvest every time to allow the plants to grow back. We also cultivate seaweed on ropes in the sea. This is done in a mussel farm off the coast of the Lizard as well. Here we have seaweed hanging of lines suspended in the ocean. The cool thing about this technique is that it forms an artificial reef, providing habitat for a lot of species, including commercial fish.
What’s your favourite product from your range?
Hard to say as they are all great and have so many varied uses, but if I have to choose, possibly dried dulse or sea salad flakes. Both are very versatile, I even put them in my porridge in the morning. It provides a great health boost supplying a wide range of minerals, vitamins and anti-oxidants in high quantities.
What’s your favourite recipe to use Cornish Seaweed in?
A good vegan Indian curry. Make the curry as usual, and add strips of dried dulse in just before serving. The dulse gives of an amazing salty, meaty taste and texture and soaks up the flavour of the curry. Or a vegan lasagne, where (some of the) lasagne sheets are substituted for kelp.
What do you love most about Cornwall?
The ocean and the coast of course! It offers so much. Surfing, snorkelling, sailing, peacefulness, energy, jobs, beauty, food, and it’s just awe-inspiring. But we have to make sure we manage it carefully and not overexploit or pollute it. So many people love the ocean, but we need to preserve the beauty we love and that means making some changes. It seems we are moving that way though.
What’s next for The Cornish Seaweed Company
Seaweed is probably the most sustainable crop in the world as it does not need fresh water, pesticides, fertiliser, or cutting down natural habitats to grow it. Also, it is a local abundant food with the highest nutritional values and health benefits in the world!
We aim to make seaweed available to everyone and try to make it an integral part of people’s diet. We want seaweed’s environmental and health benefits to be recognised and strive to grow the business sustainably, looking at alternative uses for seaweed, including fertiliser, biofuel, bioplastic, medicine, clothes, you name it!