Producer of the month: Octopus's Garden Seaweed
Octopus's Garden Seaweed turns super-food seaweed into delicious products for everyday eating, using all-natural products and simple preparation processes. All of our seaweed is sustainably produced to organic standards in the British Isles.
Umami Drops are delicious drops of super-concentrated seaweed essence with an intensively savoury-sweet flavour. They are a unique and versatile vegan condiment and deliver a nutritious flavour burst whether splashed on top of avocado on toast, stir fries, seafood, soup, etc.
Pickled Seaweed is exactly what is says on the jar! Seaweed is simply combined with apple cider vinegar, apple juice concentrate and grated ginger to create a scrumptious accompaniment for sandwiches, toasties, burgers, cheese and biscuits, savoury pasties, cold cuts, seafood, slaws, and just about anything else.
We talked to founder Jane Antrobus to learn more about the products.
Why do you do what you do?
I set up Octopus's Garden Seaweed in 2017, following a 17 year career in the environmental sector. When I discovered edible seaweed (about 7 years ago), it really chimed with my passions, and it felt very much as if I had found my 'thing'. I started picking seaweed and cooking with it, and absolutely loved it.
In my experience, people are interested in eating seaweed and will happily eat it in restaurants, but it is still a relatively niche part of the British diet, and most people don't cook with it or eat it much at home. But seaweed is so good for us, so delicious and so good environmentally (growing around the British Isles without the need for land, freshwater or fertilisers) that in my mind it should have a place in our diets on a day to day basis. So the idea behind Octopus's Garden Seaweed is to make it as easy and enjoyable as possible for people to get some seaweed - specifically organic seaweed from the British Isles - onto their plates!
What do you enjoy most about your job?
I really enjoy product development. I love the process of combining the flavours that seaweeds offer with other ingredients to make products that are different and taste great.
What do you least enjoy about your job?
I am definitely not a natural when it comes to marketing.
What achievement are you most proud of?
It is still early days for Octopus's Garden Seaweed but I feel really pleased that I have developed two products (so far) which are genuinely different, delicious and really good for you. I love to see people try Umami Drops and Pickled Seaweed for the first time - and be surprised at just how tasty seaweed can be. Umami Drops were shortlisted in the Healthy Boost category of the Great British Food Awards 2018, and I received the following feedback from the judges:
"Umami Drops were a hit with the judges, who all agreed upon the uniqueness of the product. The judges also agreed that this would make a fantastic alternative to flavour enhancers and additives often used in stocks, soups and more or indeed, salt. What's more the judges were pleasantly surprised at its taste - in spite of it being a concentrated form of seaweed and packed with iodine, they founds its umami flavour particularly moreish!"
I was also really delighted when the fantastic Oyster Shack in Bigbury developed an amazing new oyster topping (Sergeant Pepper) using Umami Drops.
Why should we buy British produce?
Lots of reasons. Reducing food miles. Supporting the British economy, and helping maintain a viable farming and food sector - which also improves our food security.
When most people think about buying British produce, seaweed probably isn't the first thing that springs to mind! But most of the seaweed that gets consumed in Britain is imported from Asia, which is crazy when you consider that we are surrounded by an abundance of beautiful edible seaweed right here in the British Isles. Seaweed has great potential in a number of different applications (including but not limited to food), and seaweed cultivation represents a new economic opportunity in the British Isles. Octopus's Garden Seaweed works with Islander Kelp who are doing fantastic work pioneering seaweed cultivation in a Marine Conservation Zone off Rathlin Island, Northern Ireland.
How do you think we should be promoting British?
By getting better at telling the stories that sit behind the food products that are made here. Many consumers are interested in the provenance and the environmental impacts of their food, and with social media there is more scope that ever to connect with them.
If you were an advertising executive what slogan would you use to promote British food?
I think that 'Love British Food' tells it well. I like its simplicity and it conveys a positive message without being bossy or shouty.
What's on the menu this evening?
It's starting to feel like winter, so a warming seaweed broth (using Umami Drops as the base) with shiitake mushrooms, coriander, chilli, ginger and garlic.
How can people get hold of your produce?
Online at www.octopusgardenseaweed.co.uk