Dulse seaweed is a variety of red marine algae which has been eaten for centuries by residents of the Atlantic and Pacific coastlines, where it is found. Now, a new variety of the food could soon be making its way onto the American market.
Oregon State University researchers developed a new strain of the seaweed which is loaded with twice the number of nutrients as kale, including plenty of protein. This variety of dulse is designed to grow quickly and perhaps best of all, it tastes like bacon.
"The original goal was to create 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," said Chris Langdon from the Hatfield Marine Science Center at Oregon.
The idea of raising dulse for consumption by abalone continued until Chuck Toombs from the university's College of Business stopped by the lab, looking for projects for his students. He quickly realized the commercial potential of the genetically engineered product, which is bursting with nutrition. Wild dulse is collected and sold for up to $90 a pound to consumers who use the product in food, or as a nutritional supplement.
The team quickly started working with the Food Innovation Center at the facility to develop new products from the specially produced dulse. The best-received of these recipes include a salad dressing and a type of dulse cracker.
"Dulse is a super food, with twice the nutritional value of kale. And OSU has developed a variety that can be farmed, with the potential for a new industry on the Oregon coast," Toombs said.
The Oregon Department of Agriculture provided a grant to explore raising the new form of dulse as a specialty crop. This is the first time a variety of seaweed has ever received this distinction, according to researchers.
There are no domestic sources of commercial dulse in the United States, and the type of seaweed currently available for stores in the United States is a different variety than that developed at Oregon. Dulse has long been consumed by people in northern Europe, where the algae is often used in powder form, as an ingredient in smoothies and other products, although the commercial viability of a dulse market in the United States remains a question.
Dulse can be served fresh, dried, or even fried, but frying brings out the bacon-like taste of the genetically-modified version of the seaweed. Why do anything else?