Behind the scenes: Manus and Eichenhain’s wild-harvested algae

Manus harvesting

Manus is our man for seaweed from Ireland. He hand-harvests wild seaweed has an incredible knowledge of these wonderful sea vegetables. As he is also an incredibly nice person, we were able to chat with him a little about this and that.

Eichenhain: How did you come to harvest algae? It’s certainly not the most common profession. And how did you get your incredible knowledge about algae?

Manus: I started harvesting dulse and carragheen with my father when I was 4 years old. In summer, when the algae can be dried outside in the sun, he harvested the algae as a sideline and sold them in bags to local stores. When I was 14, I started going out on a boat on my own and my love for the sea and for everything in and out of the sea grew year after year. After school, I started studying mechanical engineering. I enjoyed it, but I also realized that I really missed living with the sea. After 2 years, I switched to studying fish and shellfish farming. A year later I had my own shellfish farm called “Lough Sally Shellfish”. I have bred oysters and various mussels. Within a few years I was supplying restaurants and hotels all over Donegal. I also became a wholesaler for seafood and fish. But that also meant constantly being on the move. Although business was going well, I was not satisfied and heard the call of the sea again and more and more strongly. With my engineering skills and knowledge of the coast, I was sure I could develop my own system to sustainably harvest and dry all the wonderful sea vegetables, while also meeting the legal requirements. So in 1986, I took on the challenge of setting up something new, initially part-time, alongside my wholesale seafood and shellfish business.

Eichenhain: And you actually harvest everything by hand?

ManusSo, going out to sea in my 4 meter long dinghy, visiting all the different small islands along our coast, cutting the sea vegetables and bringing the fresh harvest home and drying it and then seeing how the demand develops, how new people discover this wonderful food, it’s a fulfilling experience. Even if there are hard and cold winter experiences, it is also extremely satisfying. Because I understand the sea and its daily changing conditions and have many years of experience with the plants, their growth cycle and sustainable harvesting, the sea has always been there for me.

Eichenhain: I was talking to a friend from Ireland the other day and mentioned that I love dulse . She didn’t know dulse at all. How well known is dulse in Ireland?

Manus: In almost all coastal communities, and particularly in the west and north of Ireland, eating sea vegetables, especially dulse, is a great tradition. Today, young people in particular are interested in the wonderful health benefits of sea vegetables and knowledge about them is growing.

Eichenhain: What is your favorite sea vegetable and what is your favorite algae dish?

Manus: There are many algae that I like, which I enjoy in different ways. But I have a special recipe from Dr. Prannie Rhatigan’s Irish Seaweed Kitchen cookbook: Potato Stir Fry. But basically you can use seaweed as a garnish for any dish, and of course you can sprinkle the flakes on any dish like a sea spice, so you have a colorful garnish full of vitamins and minerals.

Eichenhain: The new seaweed tea is very interesting! What is the story behind it? And I remember you telling me that you bought a tea bag filling machine from India especially for this?

Manus: Finding an algae for a seaweed tea was a thought I had for many years. I tried a lot of algae before I discovered the unique and very pleasant taste of Lanosa. Once I had decided on the Lanosa, I did some research and found a semi-automatic machine for filling tea bags. However, I had to order these from India.

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