From Sea to Table
Hand Harvested Seaweed from the Aran Islands
Discover the Bounty of the Sea with a Foraging Tour
The West of Ireland is home to many wondrous things, including the successful seaweed harvesting business Bláth na Mara. Located on the largest of the Aran Islands, Inis Mór, 23 miles off the coast of Co. Galway and the Wild Atlantic Way, Bláth na Mara continues the strong Island tradition of family businesses and was founded by a native of Inis Mór, Mairtín Ó Conceanainn in 2002.
The Aran Islands are steeped in tradition and a heritage that has been passed from those first hunter gatherer settlers who braved the tumultuous journey from the mainland thousands of years ago. One of the traditions that is ingrained in island life is that of harvesting the rich and nourishing bounty of seaweed that can be found along its coastline. Showing their determination and resourcefulness, Islanders in the 19th century survived by fishing, kelpmaking, and sowing potatoes that flourished when grown using seaweed that helped fertilize the soil. The high demand of kelp for glass and soapmaking, acted as a steady income which was also revived in later centuries for the production of iodine.
It is with this strong history behind him that Mairtín Ó Conceanainn first started to see the potential of using this much loved natural resource commercially in a sustainable way. For over 13 years Mairtín worked hard developing his burgeoning business, learning all there is to know about the species of seaweed that grows on the island along with single handedly travelling across the shore harvesting in all seasons and braving all weather conditions. This hard work culminated with the development of a specialised unit on the island that processes and dries the harvested seaweed.
In 2015, assistance with the development of Bláth na Mara, came when Mairtín’s daughter Jenny returned to the island with her New Zealander husband David and their two young kids, eager to help grow this seaweed business and to build roots on Inis Mór. A winning combination of Mairtín, Jenny and David’s experience in their respective fields has brought new life to Blath na Mara and allowed the business to diversify and develop further.
Some of these exciting developments include guided foraging tours along the Inis Mór coast, a popular activity for food enthusiasts ever searching for authentic food experiences. Recent times has also seen the production of their own retail line allowing people from further afield to be introduced to this fascinating product. Currently Bláth na Mara are facilitating group tours and booking must be made in advance.
Actively working with a natural resource along the coast, the team at Bláth na Mara, are very conscious of harvesting in a sustainable and conscientious way. Certified organic, all harvested products can be traced back to the exact date and location from where it was picked. Practiced methods of harvesting that leave as little impact on the environment as possible are utilised.
So what can people expect to enjoy from Bláth na Mara? This dynamic food business harvests a variety of edible seaweed, including Dulse/Dillisk, Carrageen Moss, Sea Spaghetti and Sea Lettuce amongst others. Jenny and David have created several delicious bites and recipes that proclaim the versatility and health benefits of introducing seaweed into your diet. From freshly baked breads and pestos infused with the rich flavours of seaweed you will be pleasantly surprised sampling some of Bláth na Mara’s products.