Interview with Kelp Farmer Kate Burns

Visited by the Countryfile team on 6 March 2016, the small island of Rathlin lies off the coast of County Antrim, Northern Ireland. 

Photo credit: iStock

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The spectacular and rugged landscape of Rathlin is also home to one of the most stunning kelp forests in Europe. We spoke to kelp farmer, Kate Burns, who comes from a fourth generation fishing family and is a marine scientist who grew up on the island. 

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Kate now runs a successful business growing and harvesting kelp for restaurants, specialist deli’s and wholesalers worldwide. Here, she tells Carys Matthews more about this delicious vegetable of the sea. 

What inspired you to start farming kelp?

I first saw it being done in Maine, USA and was interested in the innovative model, which was based on partnerships with fishermen, so we copied it.

What makes Rathlin Island such a good place to grow kelp? And how long does it take to grow? Is it seasonal?

Rathlin is ideal for growing and harvesting kelp thanks to the clean, cold waters generated by the mix of Irish Sea and Atlantic currents. 

Recently touted as the new ‘super-food’, why should people eat it? 

Kelp contains more iron and calcium than any other vegetable. It’s high in dietary fibre, protein, vitamin D and healthy trace mineral, such as selenium and potassium. It’s also low in carbohydrates and salt and is versatile to cook with as it isn’t salty, but adds texture and colour to a dish. Add it to sauces, smoothies, stir fries, soups, dough or salads.

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Fresh kelp/Photo credit: Islander

What’s your favourite kelp dish? 

My favourite dish is kelp noodles, where we mix the noodles with ordinary noodles to add colour and texture. I also like to add kelp to salad and couscous. The pesto is the best though and is made with 60 per cent kelp. Fabulous. Macro Pierre White has described this (and given us permission to use it) as the best pesto outside of Genoa. 

Where can people buy your kelp?

We sell through a few health food shops and to restaurants. You can also find out more information on our website: islanderseafood.com

What do you love about living on Rathlin Island?

I love the fresh air, open and stunning landscape and sense community and belonging. 

 

Make Kate’s Kelp & Mushroom Stir Fry

Quick & easy side dish – delicious with steak (serves 2-4)

Ingredients:

  • 250g Kelp Noodle or Tagliatelle
  • 1/2 punnet mushrooms
  • 1 Tbsp Olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic – finely chopped
  • 1 stock cube (vegetable or beef) dissolved in 100 ml of boiled water
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • Chopped parsley or coriander to garnish (optional)

Heat oil in frying pan. Add garlic and mushrooms, fry till softened. Add kelp and dissolved stock cube; simmer about five minutes, stirring occasionally, till liquid has reduced to sauce consistency. Add salt and pepper as desired. Top with herbs.

SUGGESTION: If serving with steak, cook the steak first and use the same pan for the recipe. Once you add the dissolved stock gently scrape the bottom of the pan to get the tasty bits from the steak.

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For further recipes, please visit: islanderseafood.com/recipes