Interview with Graham Gannon, The Peninsula Kelp Company.
We interviewed Graham Gannon, owner of The Peninsula Kelp Company, based in Strangford Lough, Northern Ireland, who supply us with natural Sea Oak and Samphire for the new Wild Samphire Collection.
Can you tell our readers a little about what you do and a typical day?
I have to work with the tides, sun, moon and the stars – when they align, I get to go to work. I chose my particular area of harvest to the best as I could to avoid heavy swells and high winds, but sometimes that’s just not possible! Mother Nature dictates my harvest times, so I am always keeping an eye on the weather and on the tide.
My day starts early. I pack my wetsuit, weight belt, knife, shears, fins, mask and my float and bag. I live about 5 miles from the sea so my commute is not bad. We lease my area of sea bed from the crown estate, it’s about a 400 m swim from the shore. Depending on what’s required (do I need kelp, dulse or sea lettuce) I swim to the areas in my rotational cropping plan allocated for that month and begin harvesting. Depending on the tide, sometimes I may have to dive up to 5 metres for a particular kelp or sea oak. When I have harvested what I need, I swim back to shore, towing my bag and float back. Then the long hours of work begin, we start the production process of washing the seaweeds, drying and milling. As well as supplying Noble Isle, we make a range of products such as, dulse crackers, sea weed butters, infused oils, seasoning and we also provide fresh sea weed to restaurants so I can be on the road doing deliveries.
How long have you run Peninsula Kelp Company?
The Peninsula Kelp Company has been going for about 3 years now. My wife and I run the business although we all dive for the seaweed, even our two girls who love the ocean. We are all happy to put a wetsuit on and harvest so it’s a great family effort and always a lot of fun. Every dive is different, there is always something to learn and we always enjoy a hot chocolate on the beach after.
How do you collect and source the Sea Oak and Samphire?
On my area of sea bed, we have a particular section of reef that the sea oak grows in about 4 to 6 m depending on the tidal state, I free dive down and cut what I need using a knife or scissors. The samphire grows within the salt marshes of Strangford Lough, I have to take my foraging basket and walk across the marsh to find it! It is beautiful and so peaceful, lots of interesting things to see and observe nature going about its’ business.
What are the benefits of Sea Oak and Samphire?
I was brought up using Sea Oak and Samphire in soups, stews, pan-fried or over your daily-catch of fish. My grandmother always told me it was good for your immune system!
We use Sea Oak in our sea weed bath bags because of the beautiful oil that is secreted when it is exposed to warm water. It’s so good for your skin, hair and mental wellness.
Best things to do in Strangford Lough?
Strangford lough is two miles away from my home. On a good day with a southern breeze we can smell the sea! I have been diving, sea kayaking, paddle-boarding on it for the last 20 years. It truly is a beautiful body of water – the Vikings named it the place of strange tides. The Lough offers so much to do from beautiful scenery – lots of hidden gems to visit on both sides from small sailing villages, to bird sanctuaries, canoe trails, camping, wrecks on the sea bed dating back to the 16th century, amazing food and entertainment all the way around both coasts – there is something for everyone.