Harris is home to a plethora of fantastic seaweeds that cling to the rugged, wave-swept rocks with April and May bringing the peak season for around 10 of the tastiest edible species.
The sea starts to warm up, the days get longer, and the seaweeds go into a growth spurt. This, coupled with low spring tides, allows foragers to harvest these culinary delights for a couple of hours each day.
Many have names that will twist the tongue of even the most fluent of Gaelic speakers. Think Himanthalia elongata, Ulva intestinalis, Palmaria palmate, Saccharina latissimi, and Laminaria digitata - just to name a few.
While seaweeds are traditionally known by their Latin names, chefs have started to use English names that describe their looks or taste.
You’ll often see Truffle of the Sea, Sea Lettuce, and Mermaids Lace...more digestible names which make more sense when they appear on menus of the finest restaurants.
Seaweed is gaining popularity amongst chefs for what these delicacies can add to a dish in terms of flavour, texture, and colour.
One of the most popular seaweeds during this season is our own key gin botanical, Sugar Kelp.
Lewis, our Kelp diver, is now out on local waters harvesting the large golden fronds, which are then carefully cleaned and dehydrated for our work. Lewis explains…
"The large fronds of Sugar Kelp make it perfect as an alternative to tinfoil to cover any oven baked dish of fish or meat while also imparting a subtle salt sweet flavour."
This appreciation of seaweed by chefs has kept Lewis busy this spring, with weekly shipments of fresh chilled seaweeds going to London eateries.
Pepper Dulse, with its distinctive pepper and spice flavour, is a favourite, as is Sea Spaghetti, which, as its name implies, is great in any noodle-based dish.
Lewis says stir-fried Sea spaghetti flavoured with pepper dulse is a favourite culinary combo of his and that it goes really well with cod, turbot or scallops.
He also recommends fresh sea urchin with pepper dulse as a flavour packed experience, ideal for an instant seashore snack for the keen forager.
And to wash things down, we always recommend reaching for your Isle of Harris Gin and raising a glass to the seaweed season!