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Super-Food and Seaweed and Bacon: Oregon Surprise

Jul 16, 2015 03:51 PM EDT
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Both kale and quinoa may feel tremors this week from the West Coast, because Oregon State University researchers have patented a new strain of fast-growing seaweed that is loaded with protein and (um) tastes like bacon, according to a release. That's right, tastes like bacon.

The new product is a strain of dulse, Palmaria sp., a succulent red marine algae that grows wild along the Pacific and Atlantic coasts. The researchers originally aimed to develop a super-food for abalone. Scientist Chris Langdon at OSU has been growing one strain of dulse--which contains up to 16 percent protein in dry weight--for the last 15 years, the release said.

All of that changed, and became both food-ier and more bacon-y, when Chuck Toombs from OSU's College of Business suggested developing a strain of the high-vitamin, antioxidant-full seaweed that could work in many human foods, according to the release.

"Dulse is a super-food, with twice the nutritional value of kale," Toombs said, in the release.

Toombs and OSU's Food Innovation Center in Portland worked on a dulse-based rice cracker--then collaborated with a chef, Jason Ball, who had previously worked with the University of Copenhagen's Nordic Food Lab, helping chefs there better use local ingredients, the release said.

Dulse is widely used in Europe. "In Europe, they add the powder to smoothies, or add flakes onto food," Langdon said, in a release. "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."

The fast-growing seaweed could be grown away from coasts, too. "The dulse grows using a water recirculation system," Langdon said, a release noted. "Theoretically, you could create an industry in (arid) 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."

More on the project is in the publication Oregon's Agricultural Progress.

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