The blizzard moves in, wind is whipping up from the sea and snow is battering the side of the poly tunnels. Chris smiles and says, "This is where we harvest the salt from the sun."
The poly tunnels hug a stretch of coastline in Northern Skye: there are four that sit facing nose to nose following the sea line. Three of the tunnels are full of a thin layer of salt and the third is used for the final drying process. The salt is produced using water from Loch Snizort which is pumped directly into the poly tunnels. It forms a very shallow lake and the slow, natural evaporation process produces crystals that retain all the trace minerals contained in the sea. The crystals are then collected, dried, sorted and packed ready to be shipped out.
Skye Sea Salt was set up in 2011 by four friends. They had no prior food production experience but wanted to create a business that was socially and environmentally responsible; one which would work in harmony with the environment around them. We meet with the Skye Sea Salt directors, Chris Watts and Nanette Muir at the poly tunnels looking out on the stormy waters just metres away. Nanette says, “The last known attempt to produce sea salt on the Isle of Skye was made in the early 1700s on the Sleat peninsula, so we knew we’d have our work cut out.”
“The crystals have a naturally high mineral content retained by the single evaporation process, making for a crumbly, distinctive texture and flavour with no bitter aftertaste”
The pair had to design everything from scratch, building poly tunnels, refining processes and opening distribution lines. After years of research and hard work, the salt was finally launched on the local market in 2013. The result is a multi- award-winning product. Chris passes us a cherry tomato dipped in the salt. He explains, “The crystals have a naturally high mineral content retained by the single evaporation process, making for a crumbly, distinctive texture and flavour with no bitter aftertaste”. The tomato is the perfect way to taste this Scottish salt and as well as a lovely crunch there is also a subtle sweetness that permeates through.
The business works in harmony with the seasons, only harvesting from April to October and uses only the power of the sun and wind on the site at Loch Snizort. Nanette says, “We wanted to create a business that was environmentally friendly, low energy and low waste.” As well as no power on site they also use ninety per cent recycled card in all of their packaging. Chris says, “We live in a really lovely part of the world and we want our business to reflect that.”
The raw materials aren’t going to run out any time soon and the demand for the salt is growing all the time. There is a strong local market, but they are now selling all over the world. They have appeared on national television and featured in lots of trade press, helping the brand grow from strength to strength. As we leave the coastal site, the blizzard has subsided and the dark clouds have been blown away. The sun re-emerges to continue the natural process of slowly evaporating the pure sea salt and producing this unique product for all to enjoy.