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Biologists Create Seaweed Strain that Tastes Like Bacon

A team of scientists at Oregon State University has developed a new variety of dulse seaweed (Palmaria mollis) that, when fried or smoked, tastes just like bacon.

“The original goal was to create a super-food for abalone, because high-quality abalone is treasured, especially in Asia,” said team leader Prof Chris Langdon of the Oregon State University’s Hatfield Marine Science Center.

“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.”

The new dulse variety, which looks like translucent red lettuce, is an excellent source of minerals, vitamins and antioxidants – and it contains up to 16% protein in dry weight.

“Dulse is a super-food, with twice the nutritional value of kale. And Oregon State University had developed this variety that can be farmed, with the potential for a new industry for Oregon,” said team member Dr Chuck Toombs of the Oregon State University’s College of Business.

Several Portland-area chefs are now testing dulse as a fresh product and many believe it has significant potential in both its raw form and as a food ingredient.

“Although dulse has great potential, no one has yet done a full analysis on whether a commercial operation would be economically feasible,” said Dr Gil Sylvia, director of the Coastal Oregon Marine Experiment Station at the Oregon State University’s Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport.

“That fact that it grows rapidly, has high nutritional value, and can be used dried or fresh certainly makes it a strong candidate.”

Prof Langdon and his colleagues have two large tanks in which they can grow about 20-30 pounds of dulse a week.

The scientists have plans to up the production to 100 pounds a week. For now, they are using the dulse for research at the Food Innovation Center on dulse recipes and products.

“The dulse grows using a water recirculation system. 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,” Prof Langdon said.

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