IMAGINE eating Dulse, a type of seaweed that tastes like bacon when fried, minus the
cholesterol and fats.
It seems too good to be true but researchers have quickly patented the seaweed that normally grows in the wild along the Pacific and Atlantic coastlines. The seaweed is actually a new strain of red marine algae called dulse and looks like red lettuce that is packed with all the good minerals. When fried, dulse tastes like bacon which is good news for vegans, vegetarians and health conscious people.
Aquaculture researcher Chris Langdon and colleagues at Oregon State University’s Hatfield Marine Science Center have patented the new strain. Langdon has studied dulse, trying to figure out a way to make the nutritious algae grow quickly enough to become commercially viable feed for abalone, a type of edible sea snail. In 2004, he obtained a patent for a particularly fast-growing strain that can double its weight in just 10 days. However, a year and a half ago, Chuck Toombs, a business professor at Oregon State University suggested that Langdon might want to stop trying to grow dulse for abalone and start growing it for humans.
The succulent red marine algae is fast-growing and super nutritious plant that has about 16% protein by dry weight. It is also rich in minerals, vitamins and antioxidants. “Dulse is a super-food with twice the nutritional value of kale.” said Toombs.
Seaweeds and sea vegetables are known for taking up vitamins from the water so minerals such as iodine, potassium and calcium are part of the goodness of eating dulse.
Several Portland chefs, as well as the Food Innovation Center in Portland, are experimenting with the new ingredient including adding it to peanut brittle and trail mix, and even candied dulse chips added to ice cream. It is interesting to note that dulse has, for centuries been harvested in the wild and used in northern European cuisine.
In Europe, they add the powder to smoothies or add flakes onto food. It’s an ancient snack in Ireland, where people living along the island’s northern shores have traditionally gathered it. Health food stores around the world sell it, too.
“I think the public is ready to have something that tastes good and is good for you. There hasn’t been a lot of interest in using it in a fresh form.” said Langdon.
Researchers say their dulse, when fried, smells and tastes like bacon. This is a big relief for bacon lovers who indulge in this treat but cannot eat bacon due to healthy reasons, as bacon is known to have excess sodium and can elevate blood pressure and raise risk of heart disease.
Langdon, recently said in an interview with CNN that he anticipates dulse becoming a more common bacon replacement for people who are concerned about their cholesterol levels or who do not eat meat due to other dietary or religious reasons.
Dulse’s quick growth time is an advantage that the seaweed has over other food sources, especially livestock, which is expensive and time-consuming to rear.
It can be cultivated where there is a modest amount of seawater and some sunshine. “The advantage of farming sea vegetables, like dulse is that it does not depend on freshwater supplies and ecologically benefits the marine environment by removing nutrients and dissolved carbon.” added Langdon.
He and his colleagues grow dulse in cultured tanks of seawater producing about 30 pounds of seaweed each week. Growing the dulse in cultured tanks allows them to fine-tune the nutrient content of the water and grow dulse year round, but it also constraints their ability to scale their dulse operation to a commercially-viable size.
Although there’s been no research done as yet into how well the crop could be commercialised, marketers are now working on a plan for a line of specialty foods, with the vegan and vegetarian markets to mind.