IT’S no secret that Scotland has abundant natural ingredients that are not only rich in nutrients but also downright delicious. With the help of Mother Nature, resourceful entrepreneurs are looking local for inspiration, whether from the seashores, forests, busy bees, or the complex soil itself. Here we round up our pick of Scottish producers making the best use of the country’s rich natural larder.

HARRIS GIN

Sugar kelp is the essential botanical used in Harris Gin and what gives it that refreshing maritime essence. Seaweed expert and local diver Lewis Mackenzie supplies seaweed from sea lochs close to the Isle of Harris Distillery in the springtime before taking them to be dried and infused into the distilling process.

HeraldScotland:

Mike Donald, chief storyteller at the distillery explains: “After a long exploration of our island’s natural botanicals, we eventually decided on sugar kelp seaweed as our defining ingredient to best express our historic ties and affinity with the sea. On an island where flora often struggles to grow and thrive, we’re blessed with an abundance of this kelp around our shores meaning we can harvest and use it sustainably, which we do seasonally and by hand.”

 harrisdistillery.com

THE ROOKERY CRAFT MEAD

Mead is widely considered the world’s oldest alcoholic drink. Evidence suggests mead, made from fermented honey, can be traced back some 5,000 years among ancient cultures spanning the globe. Perthshire-based business, The Rookery, has been experiencing an increase in demand as more people become curious and want to taste the drink once considered in ancient Greece as “The Drink of the Gods”. Christopher Mullin, founder of The Rookery, started making mead while studying Gaelic at university.

HeraldScotland:

He says: “As I read into the archaeology, I realised how many ingredients are in our woods and hills, just forgotten about. Many of my drinks are about presenting these ancient foods to a new audience. Things like spruce (not native to Scotland but used by native people across Scandinavia and in Canada), silver birch, rowan berries, wild cherries, heather and meadwort, to name just a few. These are all foraged locally and everything I do, I do myself, by hand.”

 rookery.scot

SUMMER HARVEST

Summer Harvest produces its multi-award-winning Cold Pressed Rapeseed Oil, which is grown, pressed and bottled on the family farm in Strathearn, Perthshire. Along with the Cold Pressed Rapeseed Oil, Summer Harvest offers a catalogue of dressings and mayonnaise, with interesting flavours including Apple & Walnut, Bramble & Juniper, and Raspberry.

HeraldScotland: Mark Bush, founder of Summer Harvest OilsMark Bush, founder of Summer Harvest Oils

Founder Mark Bush comments: “Perthshire is an ideal location to grow oilseed rape. We take the seed and simply press, filter and bottle the oil to produce a 100% natural oil.”

 summerharvestoils.co.uk

THE SCOTTISH BEE COMPANY

With over 500 hives, housing roughly 25 million bees, The Scottish Bee Company is on a mission to increase the bee population by 20% over the next three years. The Lothians-based company was founded by Iain and Suzie Millar in 2017.

HeraldScotland:

The pair are passionate about protecting pollinators, which led them to adopt their bees and hire expert bee farmers to produce pure Scottish honey, 100% natural and free from pesticides and GMOs. Suzie explained: “Produced from hives all across Scotland, our pure honey tastes like the rugged wilds of Scotland and, being the first-ever food product to get the BSI Kitemark, you know that what is in our jars is authentic.”

 scottishbeecompany.co.uk

BIRKEN TREE

The practice of extracting birch sap goes back 5,000 years in Scotland. The subtly sweet sap is packed with minerals, vitamins, proteins, and amino acids. Birch water is commonly drunk as a health tonic (and hangover cure) in places like Scandinavia and Russia.

HeraldScotland:

Birken Tree, based in Perthshire, was set up by husband-and-wife duo Gabrielle and Rob Clamp. Birken Tree gathers thousands of litres of birch sap predominantly over three weeks in spring from the forests of birch trees in Perthshire.

 @birken_tree

TEA GARDENS OF SCOTLAND

In 2016, nine women came together with the idea of combining planting tea crops with running farms and rural tourism businesses. The group had speculated that micro-climates found in old walled gardens might be suited to tea plants and managed to source tea seed from Georgia and Nepal with a high cold tolerance. The result was the Tea Gardens of Scotland (TGS), an association of growers, which now has plantations across Angus, Fife, Perthshire and Aberdeenshire.

HeraldScotland:

Susie Walker-Munro, owner of Kinnettles Tea Garden in Angus, explains: “Scotland’s slightly acidic loamy soils, varying garden aspects, long daylight in the summer, and dark long nights in winter all affect our plants. This, coupled with our sometimes feral weather and the stress on the plants adds to the complexity of flavour coming through in the scent and liquor of our tea, which is made at the Scottish Tea Factory in Comrie.”

 teagardensofscotland.co.uk

MARA SEAWEED

Seaweed grows abundantly on Scotland’s coasts and provides a rich source of vitamins and minerals as well as flavours.

HeraldScotland: Fiona Houston, co-founder of Mara SeaweedFiona Houston, co-founder of Mara Seaweed

 Mara Seaweed was founded in 2013 by Fiona Houston and Xa Milne after the pair agreed seaweed was “Scotland’s forgotten natural superfood”.

Mara’s seasoning flakes are designed to be used just like traditional herbs and spices, making it easier to introduce the health benefits of seaweed into your diet.

 maraseaweed.com