Welcome to the Love Your Local Larder Podcast! A podcast that celebrates local produce with the people who cook and grow it.
In this episode, we embark on a captivating journey into the world of Blackthorn Salt, an extraordinary organic salt-making company located on the scenic West Coast of Scotland. Co-founded by Whirly and Gregorie, whose family heritage is deeply rooted in the salt industry, Blackthorn Salt was born from a dream to revive the Scottish salt-making tradition. Join us as we explore the company's origins, its impressive production process, and the sustainable edge that sets Blackthorn Salt apart. To top it off, we had the pleasure of finishing our discussion with a taste test, comparing Blackthorn salt to commonly used salts to uncover the differences.
When I asked Suzie, our host, about her experience with Blackthorn Salt, this is what she had to say: “Sadly, I never made it to meet Gregorie and Whirly as a random snowstorm occurred while I was driving there. I had to turn back, only to learn the snowstorm was gone within a couple of hours. One of those days! However, my chat with them was absolutely fascinating. I knew nothing about salt and just how many minerals there are; the difference in taste from salt to salt was remarkable. Lovely people with truly fascinating minds, able to transform simple branches into a salt mine!”
Listen to the podcast episode here...
The story of Scottish salt-making is one of resilience and ingenuity. Historically, salt was produced near a coal mine using a laborious process that involved burning excess coal to evaporate sea water. However, this industry eventually faded, with the last pan house closing its doors in the 1950s. Gregorie and Whirly were inspired to bring this age-old process back to life, relying solely on sea water, wind, and the blackthorn shrub. After two decades of dedicated effort, Blackthorn has successfully revitalised the salt industry on the West Coast of Scotland, proudly reintroducing salt to a region where it once a played a vital role in the local economy and the daily lives of its residents.
Gregorie's journey began when he encountered the remarkable graduation towers in Poland and Germany. Even though those thorn towers had been dormant for over 50 years, Gregorie was deeply inspired by their practicality, naturalness and beauty. Therefore, he decided to create his own version back home. The Blackthorn Tower, a striking structure overlooking the sea and the mountains of Arran, plays a central role in the production process. Stacked with blackthorn shrubs, each boasting thorns up to six inches long, the tower enables sea water to trickle down, increasing the surface area for natural evaporation. In 2019, a historic moment unfolded as sea water, rather than rock brine, gently cascaded down this custom-made thorn tower, allowing the very first batch of Blackthorn Salt crystals to be hand-harvested. The passion and dedication of this couple is truly admirable and has served to connect them to their roots and heritage.
Sustainability lies at the heart of Blackthorn Salt's ethos. Unlike most salt-making processes in northern Europe, the thorn tower method is entirely natural and environmentally friendly, with 90% of the process driven by the wind and the sun. This reliance on the natural environment makes the process meticulous and heavily dependent on weather conditions. To reduce waste and extend the life cycle of the Tower, they are devoted to a circular economy. Their steadfast focus remains on adhering to these sustainable practices.
In addition to this, the main principle of the company is dedication to producing the highest quality of salt. The ingredients used are solely West Coast sea water and blackthorn, resulting in an exceptionally natural product crafted by Scottish weather and their unique tower. This unique approach imparts a distinct character to the salt, enhancing the earthy and savoury aspects of food.
As a result of its naturalness, the salt produced by Blackthorn is rich in essential minerals like manganese, potassium, and calcium, making it a favourite among food enthusiasts and athletes alike. The calcium enhances the sweetness of food, while potassium and magnesium, with their sour and bitter notes, accentuate different aspects of flavours. Customers who are marathon runners, for instance, have used it to create rehydration packs due to its rich mineral content, and they claim it’s one of the best re-energising sources! Adding to their efforts in sustainability, Blackthorn also dedicated a year to designing an eco-friendly box, devoid of plastic, that is both efficient and user-friendly during cooking.
The taste test revealed the superiority of Blackthorn Salt. Suzie immediately noticed the difference in structure between the salts. Blackthorn salt has a special crystalline structure that delivers a satisfying crunch. Whirly recommends sprinkling it by hand to maintain the crunch and ensure even distribution. When compared to common table salt and pink Himalayan salt, Blackthorn's distinct blend of minerals enhances the flavour of food without overpowering it. Unlike table salt and Himalayan salt, Blackthorn Salt retains around 6% of beneficial minerals, resulting in a well-rounded taste experience.
With its commitment to sustainable practices and dedication to preserving the Scottish salt-making heritage, Blackthorn Salt stands as a testament to the artistry and craftsmanship of this essential kitchen ingredient. The result is a premium salt, abundant in essential minerals, cherished by food enthusiasts. Blackthorn Salt bridges the gap between tradition and innovation, offering a flavourful and sustainable future. We encourage you to try the salt for yourself and experience its unique qualities. Find out more about Blackthorn Salt here and embark on your own culinary journey.