Researchers from Oregon State University’s (OSU) Hatfield Marine Science Center have created a new strain of seaweed with potential to grab the title for World’s Top Superfood. The newly patented strain of the red-leafed algae dulse, a lettuce-like plant that grows in the wild along Atlantic and Pacific coastlines. It’s packed with protein and minerals., but the commercial money-card is that this subaquatic crop tastes like bacon!
“Dulse is a superfood, with twice the nutritional value of kale,” Chuck Toombs, an OSU College of Business staffer and part the team working to develop the product into food said during a press conference. The project initially explored how dulse might feed farmed abalone, but researchers quickly realized its potential in the human-food market.
“There hasn’t been a lot of interest in using it in a fresh form. But this stuff is pretty amazing,” said chief researcher Chris Langdon. “When you fry it, which I have done, it tastes like bacon, not seaweed. And it’s a pretty strong bacon flavor.”
Supported by the Oregon Department of Agriculture, the researchers are working with the university’s Food Innovation Center and “research chefs” from as far away as Norway to concoct recipes using dulse as a main ingredient. They’ve patented this new strain of succulent red algae, anticipating forward demand – so far creating dulse-infused salad dressing and crackers. The seaweed can be used fresh or dried.
The appeal of dulse is multi-layered. It’s protein-rich (about 16% of its dried weight), and loaded with antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. It grows quickly and inexpensively in natural or farmed settings. To date, no one has attempted to grow it on a commercial-scale for human consumption. But now that this new variety replicates the taste of artery-clogging, salt-laden, Big Food-produced bacon, seaweed farming is a new game.
Image of red seaweed from Shutterstock