It’s red, leafy, and vaguely resembles some kind of lettuce, but make no mistake – this patented new strain of seaweed has a distinctive flavor when cooked.
Specifically, it tastes just like bacon.
Dulse is a variety of seaweed that grows along the Pacific and Atlantic coastlines. It can be sold for up to 90 dollars a pound as a cooking ingredient or nutritional supplement due to it’s high levels of vitamins, minerals and protein, but this new strain adds even more reasons why people may want to start cooking and eating it.
A Happy Accident
Researchers didn’t set out to discover a bacon alternative: “The original goal was to create a super-food for abalone, because high-quality abalone is treasured, especially in Asia,” said researcher Chris Langdon in a press release(1).
“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 dulse as a food for abalone.”
It was Oregon State University faculty member Chuck Toombs who suggested that they try to patent a strain of dulse for human consumption.
“Dulse is a super-food, with twice the nutritional value of Kale,” Toombs pointed out. “And OSU had developed this variety that can be farmed, with the potential for a new industry in Oregon.”
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New Recipes Developed
Working with OSU’s Food Innovation Center in Portland, product development teams have managed to create several new foods using dulse as a primary ingredient, including salad dressing and rice crackers. It’s the first time seaweed has been considered a “specialty crop” by the Oregon Department of Agriculture.
Gil Sylvia, director of the Coastal Oregon Marine Experiment Station at OSU’s Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport, says that a full economic analysis is needed before it can be determined for sure if dulse could ever become a truly viable substitute for the ever-popular bacon.
“The fact that it grows rapidly, has high nutritional value, and can be used dried or fresh certainly makes it a strong candidate,” he said.
More Than Just Sushi: The Economic Potential Of Seaweed
Seaweed is used by food manufacturers as an ingredient for many different foods, from salad dressing to ice cream. At the recent Fancy Food Show in Portland, seaweeds were featured prominently in chips, salads, and crackers.
Toombs and Langdon currently have graduate students employed in preparing a marketing plan for a new line of speciality foods featuring dulse. They’ll need to consider how to scale production upwards from the tanks in Langdon’s lab, which have the capacity to produce about 90 pounds of dulse a week, to a potential new aquaculture industry for coastal communities(2).