Meet the people who make Food & Drink the Waterford Way – their place, their history, their community, their stories
Marie Power, The Sea Gardener
It’s fair to say that Marie Power has dedicated her life to the sea. For years, she has been running voluntary seaweed workshops and wildlife events all over the Waterford coast, but soon the passion became a profession, and “The Sea Gardener” was born.
“As part of the business, I host foraging and educational events for people, which involves bringing them down to shore and showing what kinds of seaweeds are edible, as well as how to cook and get the most from them,” she said. “We are so lucky in Waterford to have all of this on our doorstep…I love it so much that I have written a book about.
Marie’s book about seaweed foraging and cooking is called “The Sea Garden”, and it is currently in its third print run. What keeps her busiest of all though is her famous seaweed food products.
“The first thing I ever made was a granola protein bar, which I initially made for my rugby playing son,” she said. “He was eating those terrible bars that are full of sugar and artificial ingredients so I made him a 12% protein bar that contained two different types of seaweed (dillisk and sweet kelp) from the Copper Coast, Flahavans Oats and Ballinamult Early Bird Free Range Eggs. It was as Waterford a bar as you could get!”
Marie says that she’s on a mission to get people to incorporate seaweed back into their cooking.
“When I was a child, seaweed was the staple food,” she said proudly. “Unfortunately it went out of vogue and we began looking to Italy, China, France etc for inspiration instead of what we had on our own doorsteps.”
As well as being ridiculously healthy for you, seaweed also adds an abundance of taste and flavour to dishes. The products Marie makes, such as the Caponata, contains 10% seaweed but is a subtle taste and she says that you wouldn’t particularly know that it’s seaweed you’re eating. Her main products, and undoubtedly the biggest sellers, are the healthy 45g protein bars, which come in two flavours – Almond & Orange and Coconut & Lime. They’re suitable for vegetarians and are literally chock-full of healthy ingredients such as oats, free range eggs, hemp flour, milled linseeds & chia seeds, fresh citrus juice & oil, and of course, seaweed. For more information on this magnificently natural, and local product, check out www.theseagardener.ie
What motivates you?
I’m very fond of nature and I came at this whole thing – the voluntary work and the business – from an ecology point of view. I want people to think about the natural world around them and to remember how important it is to know where your food comes from. I’m so proud to be from a county that can boast such an abundance of natural, high quality ingredients.
What do you think of the food industry today?
I think there has been a turnaround. More and more people are looking for foods that are sourced or grown or baked locally and they don’t want a long food chain. It does cost more to produce and buy food locally – wages are higher in Ireland, as are ingredients, transportation etc – but more and more people are starting to realise how important, and also how much better it is for you, to buy local.
What next for The Sea Gardener?
I’m working on a Seaweed Green Tea at the moment with a local blender, and I’m also working on the second edition of my book with some extra chapters.
Food the Waterford Way is a new initiative funded by Waterford City & County Council to highlight all the great local food and producers we have in Waterford, and we want to share some of their stories and let people know how they can support local and have some great food and drink experiences. We’ve commissioned a series of profiles of local food and drink producers and we hope that this would be of interest to your readers. Any queries, please contact Eimhin Ni Chonchuir our Food the Waterford Way co-ordinator on firstname.lastname@example.org or 087 9896708