Centuries of history, decomposed forests and a dash of magic are in the Irish peat Katie McAllister brings back from the homeland.
She ships tons of the dark bricks through her business Killofin Home, which has taken off like a bonfire since she started it three years ago.
“It’s very green,” says McAllister. Slow burning, it has a much lower sulphur content and burns hotter than wood, but doesn’t spark.
Turf bogs are still mostly cut with an ancient tool, stacked and dried, the redheaded McAllister adds.
But it’s much more than an organic clump of dirt.
Songs have been written about it, and it has taken on a magical quality over the centuries, says the third-generation area resident of Irish descent.
It was burning in the fireplace on a trip years ago, when she connected with long, lost family in the Emerald Isles.
She named her company after the family home dating to the 18th century in County Clare on the Shannon River. She came upon the idea to import the turf while raising her two daughters and caring for her dad when he became ill.
She remembers as a child her father bringing back a “chunk of dirt” and treating it like a precious gem, carefully placing it by the fireplace at their Citrus Ave. home.
But even Katie didn’t realize how popular it would be when she first brought boxes of peat to Irish fairs, film festivals and other Celtic events.
“People are crazy about it. They didn’t really believe it’s real,” she says.
In Ireland it burns in chimneys across the land, keeping homes warm and exuding an earthy, inviting aroma. It’s said to have healing properties; Roman soldiers treated their wounds with it.
You can barbecue with it—there are recipes on her website—watch it glow in a fire pit or campfire. Plant it in the garden, and, of course, burn it in the fireplace, with or without wood. The Irish burn it with charcoal.
Doing business with the Irish has been interesting, laughs Katie, as much of it is still done with a handshake.
Killofin Home Irish products are available at Irish Import Shop, 742 Vine St., and at the Larchmont Village Wine, Spirits and Cheese, 223 N. Larchmont Blvd.
A 15-pound box of Irish Peat sells for $32 plus shipping. Locals can have free drop off, adds Katie.