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TITLE
Gathering Seaweed, Gruinard Bay
EXTERNAL ID
GAIRLOCHM_750A
PLACENAME
Gruinard Bay
DISTRICT
Gairloch
SOURCE
Gairloch Heritage Museum
ASSET ID
5964
KEYWORDS
kelp
kelp gathering
Gathering Seaweed, Gruinard Bay

A photograph showing a couple gathering seaweed at Gruinard Bay, near Little Loch Broom. The couple have been identified as Donald and Margaret Munro of Durnamuck.

Seaweed has traditionally been a valuable resource for those living in coastal areas. Brown seaweeds are a good fertiliser as they have high levels of potassium and nitrogen. Plants brought in by winter storms were dug directly into the soil after only a short period of composting. Oats, wheat, barley, potatoes and brassica were then planted. Crofters in the Western Isles still use seaweeds in this way, although processed seaweed-based fertilisers are also available.

An alternative way of using the seaweed was to dig trenches and lay the seaweed out to rot in the piles of earth next to them. After about three weeks, the composted mixture was turned into the trenches using a "cas chrom" (a small plough). Once the crops had been planted, no more work was necessary, as the seaweed provided all the required nutrients. This method has been called the 'lazy bed' system. Traces of trenches can still be seen on the islands and west coast of Scotland.

The earliest recorded use of seaweed in the Highlands is in the 7th century AD. In a poem attributed to St Columba, there is a reference to the monks of Iona collecting dulse from the rocks. Dulse was often eaten with oatmeal in a thick broth or served, boiled, with butter as a separate dish. It was also used in various folk remedies.

Carrageen is another species of seaweed still in use. A dried, bleached version can be purchased to make a jelly-like pudding. Carrageen extract is used as an emulsifier in various foods, medicines, surgical dressings and cattle feed. Early farmers probably noticed that cattle grazed happily on the foreshore and used this freely available resource to supplement other fodder


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Gathering Seaweed, Gruinard Bay

kelp; kelp gathering

Gairloch Heritage Museum

Gairloch Heritage Museum, Photograph Collection

A photograph showing a couple gathering seaweed at Gruinard Bay, near Little Loch Broom. The couple have been identified as Donald and Margaret Munro of Durnamuck.<br /> <br /> Seaweed has traditionally been a valuable resource for those living in coastal areas. Brown seaweeds are a good fertiliser as they have high levels of potassium and nitrogen. Plants brought in by winter storms were dug directly into the soil after only a short period of composting. Oats, wheat, barley, potatoes and brassica were then planted. Crofters in the Western Isles still use seaweeds in this way, although processed seaweed-based fertilisers are also available.<br /> <br /> An alternative way of using the seaweed was to dig trenches and lay the seaweed out to rot in the piles of earth next to them. After about three weeks, the composted mixture was turned into the trenches using a "cas chrom" (a small plough). Once the crops had been planted, no more work was necessary, as the seaweed provided all the required nutrients. This method has been called the 'lazy bed' system. Traces of trenches can still be seen on the islands and west coast of Scotland.<br /> <br /> The earliest recorded use of seaweed in the Highlands is in the 7th century AD. In a poem attributed to St Columba, there is a reference to the monks of Iona collecting dulse from the rocks. Dulse was often eaten with oatmeal in a thick broth or served, boiled, with butter as a separate dish. It was also used in various folk remedies.<br /> <br /> Carrageen is another species of seaweed still in use. A dried, bleached version can be purchased to make a jelly-like pudding. Carrageen extract is used as an emulsifier in various foods, medicines, surgical dressings and cattle feed. Early farmers probably noticed that cattle grazed happily on the foreshore and used this freely available resource to supplement other fodder <br /> <br /> <br /> This image may be available to purchase.<br /> For further information about purchasing and prices please email<br /> <a href="mailto: info@gairlochheritagemuseum.org">Gairloch Heritage Museum</a>