New salt company aims to make use of one of our biggest resources |


For an island with sea all around, it is somewhat surprising that we have never exploited one very valuable resource: salt.

Helen Crosbie, from Port St Mary, is aiming to put that right.

Anglesey has been doing it for many years now: taking water from the Menai Straits to dry out to make salt. As well as local artisan salt makers Anglesey also supplies Tesco so it’s big business.

More recently, Jersey now has its own salt company, Jersey Sea Salt. Like the Isle of Man, Jersey has a comparatively large tidal range which makes for the cleaner waters which are ideal for salt production. As with any small artisan business Jersey Sea Salt is a premium product, selling at an eye-watering £6.55 for 150 grams.

Now the Isle of Man is about to get in on the act as former chef Helen has started producing salt.

Helen says: ’It’s such an opportunity for the Isle of Man, to have a product that really puts it on the map with the marine nature reserves and Unesco Biosphere.’

She and her husband Michael lived for many years in France, in Briancon, in the southern Alps near the Italian border where she worked as a chef and Michael looked after the business side.

Helen says: ’We ran ski chalets, restaurants and hotels but [when we had children] we wanted to leave the hospitality industry as it wasn’t compatible with having a young family.’

When Michael was offered a new job opportunity in the island it seemed ideal. Helen is originally from Lancashire and living here would make it much easier to visit her family there.

’And we just loved the Isle of Man. I had been here on school biology trips, counting limpets so I knew the beaches well,’ she says.

Five years ago they settled in Port St Mary with their two children, Hettie, aged six, and George, three.

Helen recalls: ’I used to walk across the beach opposite our house in Perwick Bay with Hettie when we first came here and she’d say: “what’s that”: and I’d say: “it’s salt”.

’And I thought, what a wonderful thing to make, here in the Isle of Man.

’It just fascinated me, this amazing natural resource. I started making sea salt as a hobby then developed it as a business during the first lockdown. We’re in the process of upscaling our production ready to launch.’

The first thing Helen did when she started was to check the purity of the sea water she was using.

She says: ’The water is tested by DEFA and we make a point of taking water from marine nature reserves. It’s pristine, crystal clear water.’

Helen is using a traditional method which, she says, produces a fine, flaky salt, ideal for finishing dishes. This involves collecting sea water which is then filtered and reduced down to form a brine, before being dried with heat lamps to form the brine crystals which can then be scooped out by hand.

Salt can also be made in a polytunnel, a method that was demonstrated on television recently during Darcey Bussell’s series on the Western Isles, another place where salt is being made.

Helen explains: ’With the polytunnel method you fill up the polytunnel with a layer of salt water and it takes around three to four weeks for the water to evaporate in heart from the sun rather than heat lamps – you can only do it from April to September in the Isle of Man.

’Polytunnel produces a drier, more chalky salt but it’s sustainable, using only the heat from the sun.’

Natural salt from the sea retains minerals such as potassium, magnesium, calcium, iron, zinc and iodine and some artisan salt makers trade heavily on the apparent health benefits of this. Helen takes a more considered view.

She says: ’The government has analysed the water and it is rich in magnesium and calcium. But you would have to eat an awful lot of salt to get a meaningful amount of these minerals.

’The main thing is that it doesn’t contain anything artificial, just pure, natural sea water, no anti-caking agents, so it does retain all its minerals.’

And as a chef, Helen of course appreciates quality salt with a good provenance. ’This is what we thought when we came here – here’s this amazing place and we wondered why nobody did it.

’It’s taken a few years of research but we’ve got there now.’

l Isle of Man Sea Salt Company will be launching its products later this year.

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