Researchers at Oregon State University have made the mother of all discoveries – they’ve recently patented a strain of seaweed that’s not only rich in protein, but tastes remarkably like delicious bacon when cooked.
Dulse (Palmaria sp.) is a red marine algae that grows along the Pacific and Atlantic coastlines and is sold for up to $90 a pound in dried form as a cooking ingredient or dietary supplement. However, Chris Langdon and his colleagues at Oregon State University have patented a new strain of dulse that’s bound to revolutionize the health food industry. Not only is it an excellent source of minerals, vitamins and antioxidants and contains up to 16 percent protein in dry weight, but it actually tastes amazing. How amazing? Bacon amazing, according to Langdon.
Photo: Stephen Ward
Originally, this new strain of dulse seaweed, which looks like red translucent lettuce, was used as a super food for abalone, because high-quality abalone is treasured, especially in Asia. “We were able to grow dulse-fed abalone at rates that exceeded those previously reported in the literature. There always has been an interest in growing dulse for human consumption, but we originally focused on using dulse as a food for abalone,” Professor Langdon said.
They only considered using their improved strain of dulse as human food after a visit from Chuck Toombs, a faculty member in OSU’s College of Business, who stopped by Langdon’s office one day and saw the bubbling containers full of red dulse algae. After learning that it had twice the nutritional value of kale, a light bulb went on in Toombs’ head, and he started working with OSU’s Food Innovation Center in Portland, which has already created a number of food products with dulse as the main ingredient.
Photo: Oregon State University
However, the game-changing aspect of dulse is that it tastes great fresh. “In Europe, they add the powder to smoothies, or add flakes onto food,” Langdon said. “There hasn’t been a lot of interest in using it in a fresh form. But this stuff is pretty amazing. When you fry it, which I have done, it tastes like bacon, not seaweed. And it’s a pretty strong bacon flavor.” Although no real analysis has been done to find out whether commercializing the bacon-seaweed would be practical, researchers are convinced the vegan and vegetarian markets would go crazy for it.
Right now, Langdon and his colleagues have two large tanks in which they can grow about 20-30 pounds of dulse a week, but they plan to up the production to 100 pounds per week very soon. And, if it tastes as good as they claim and proves a commercial hit, they could grow even more. “The dulse grows using a water recirculation system,” Langdon said. “Theoretically, you could create an industry in eastern Oregon almost as easily as you could along the coast with a bit of supplementation. You just need a modest amount of seawater and some sunshine.”
Photo: Stephen Ward
Oh man, I’m so excited! I knew something like this would come along one day. No more having to hit the gym or go on long diets. Now I can just stuff myself food of seaweed, close my eyes and pretend it’s bacon.
Source: Oregon State University