We've said goodbye to 2016 and many, many lovely days on the rocky shore. Benign weather, a long summer and autumn, spectacular moons created ideal conditions for foraging. We explored new stretches of coast in Wexford (incl. Blackhall), Galway (North Beach, Inishbofin) and Cork (incl. Roberts Cove, Oysterhaven), and visited all our favourite places along the Waterford Coast.
As has been the case in recent years, some seaweed species were slow to "come in", but then, lasted well into the year. If you are using the foraging guide on p.22/23 of The Sea Garden, you'll find that the season is somewhat longer in most cases. Sleabhcan (Porphyra species) in particular has produced two growths in spring and again in autumn. We found sea lettuce (Ulva species) to be scarcer in 2016 in general, and so found ourselves using gutweed (Enteromorpha) instead - good in salads and as a topping on wraps and sandwiches. We dried some, but like sea lettuce, it tends to lose colour after a few months in storage. But not nutrients apparently.
Research on the uses and benefits of seaweed continues to throw up positive news - the wracks in particular are getting unusually good press! We use bladderwrack quite a bit in savoury dishes, and feedback from several of our foragers was very positive towards the delicate raw tips of young plants. It is especially nice - if unexpected! - in our Orange and Gingercake (recipe p.71).
The Sea Gardener Food products range expanded to include Dried Dilisk and a Cranberry & Hazelnut Gluten Free Bar - reached new retail outlets in the year and they continue to do well in the Supervalu Food Academy, even with the growth of several new bar products. We are working on some new ideas and always trying to come with genuinely innovative foods, to meet a real need. No interest in adding another food to the long list of products already there. And we will always stay with our principle of making natural foods, with the best ingredients, local as far as possible and avoiding industrial-scale production, which leads down the road of adding chemicals to extend shelf-life and meet the narrow criteria of such systems.
The best part of what we do is meeting people who are interested in food, especially wild and natural food, who love to share stories of Waterford and Irelands food heritage, especially around seaweed and people who simply love being in the outdoors.
Thank you all for your support and we wish you a peaceful and healthy New Year.