I could totally dig this. When I lived in Canada in my late teens/early 20s, I was introduced to the wonders of dulse by my neighbor, who was from New Brunswick.
Bacon-flavored seaweed is the new kale. Yes, really.
Scientists are currently cultivating a marine plant that’s packed with more nutrients than the trendy green superfood kale. And it naturally tastes like bacon.
Bacon-flavored crackers. Bacon-flavored salad dressing. These are just two of the savory treats that have been created so far using the domesticated strain of dulse (Palmaria palmata), a kind of red algae, or seaweed, that typically grows in the waters along northern Pacific and Atlantic coastlines. [Science You Can Eat: 10 Things You Didn’t Know About Food]
Dulse is usually harvested in the wild, dried out and then sold for up to $90 a pound, according to researchers at the Oregon State University (OSU) Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport, Oregon, who developed the domesticated strain of the plant.
The OSU researchers are working on making dulse more affordable and more widely available. Their strain of the lettucelike marine plant can be cultivated using hydroponic farming methods in which the plants are grow in water, without any soil. These methods make dulse much easier to grow and harvest, and therefore more affordable. The researchers are currently producing about 20 to 30 lbs. (9 to 14 kilograms) of this fast-growing plant each week in two large, water-filled tanks at the Hatfield Marine Science Center.
However, Chris Langdon, a professor of fisheries at OSU who is leading the seaweed-farming effort, said that he and his colleagues can amp up production of the delicious plant to 100 lbs. (45 kg) a week. Langdon has been growing dulse for 15 years, but he and his fellow researchers only recently patented their novel strain of bacon-flavored seaweed.
The researchers originally started growing the plant as a food for abalone, a kind of large, edible mollusk that’s often raised in commercial “aquaculture” farms. An excellent source of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and protein, dulse is the perfect food for farm-raised abalone, Langdon said.
“The original goal was to create a superfood 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,” Langdon said in a statement.
But the researchers recently shifted their focus from feeding abalone to feeding humans. When Chuck Toombs, an instructor in OSU’s business department, stopped by Langdon’s office for a visit, he saw the tanks of seaweed growing outside Langdon’s door. Toombs had come to ask the fisheries professor if he had any ideas for business projects for students. Clearly, the appeal of a bacon-flavored health food was not lost on Toombs.