How Alexandra and Fiona got into producing Dulse Seaweed and why they chose this particular product
Fiona and Alexandra met through their children’s school, and embarked on a project to educate their urbanite children about the natural world and where food comes from. Taking Richard Mabey’s book, Food For Free, as their bible, they ventured out into the wild foraging for nature’s edibles. It was this drive to pass on the knowledge they had acquired from their own countryside upbringings that ultimately took them to the seaside. Amongst the delicious ingredients the shore had to offer, including sea beet and orache, they also discovered Dulse Seaweed. Research into this seaweed’s cultural history showed that it has been eaten since at least the time of Saint Columba, and that a rock with Dulse growing on it raised the worth of a farm-holding by the value of a whole cow.
Realizing the richness of this resource, they engaged seaweed foraging expert Rory MacPhee to join them as their principal seaweed harvester, and developed a drying method that would preserve the nutritional profile, intense flavour and elemental purity of the fresh product.
Since then, their company has gone from strength to strength, with top chefs demanding their dried seaweed seasonings, and launching sales at Harrods in London.
The challenges that Alexandra and Fiona are facing producing Dulse Seaweed
One challenge that Mara Seaweed face is that Dulse grows in fairly limited areas and is often difficult to access. As it grows on kelp forests and rocks in deeper waters, foragers have to wait for the lowest tides which come once a month to be able to harvest. They have obtained a Crown Estate License to harvest Dulse, and rotate between different Dulse sites and cut the stem only three quarters of the way down to enable the seaweeds to re-grow. This ensures that the process is very sustainable, but limits the quantity they can harvest.
Another challenge is simply educating people about the versatility of seaweed as an ingredient. The seaweed seasonings which Mara Seaweed sell can be used in a wide range of dishes, including sweet deserts as they have recently managed to convince renowned cake connoisseur Paul Hollywood of the Great British Bake-Off.
With a strong umami flavour akin to anchovy, the ingredient can be a wonderful way to add depth of flavour to cooking and also comes with a wealth of health benefits due to its high vitamin and mineral content. Dulse is rich in Iodine, Iron, Calcium, Vitamin C and Vitamins B1, B2, B3, B6 and B12.
Products that Alexandra and Fiona are offering
Mara Seaweed sells a variety of dried seaweed seasonings, including Kombu, Sea Lettuce, a blend called Shony, and Pepper Dulse, which is the truffle of the seaweed world – rare and with an incredibly complex and delicate flavour.
A new Smoked Dulse product is going to be released in upcoming months, and a special seaweed topping.
Alexandra and Fiona’s favourite Dulse recipe
A fantastic spring recipe is fresh crab meat mixed with mayonnaise which has been liberally seasoned with Dulse. Serve with hunks of bread, a squeeze of lemon and a side salad.