Pass the seaweed: Notes from Thanksgiving future

[USA] Maybe not this Thursday, and maybe not in our lifetimes, but future generations of Thanksgiving celebrants will almost undoubtedly enjoy at least a little bit of seaweed with (or instead of!) their turkey.

The nutritional properties of marine macroalgae — better recognized as seaweed — have been known to us for millennia.

“Some algae,” Sze Teu wrote in 600 B.C., “are a delicacy fit for the most honored guests, even for the king himself.”

Not a traditionalist among us would dare serve up a dish of the stuff — not the red or the green or the brown — next to our turkey, stuffing, and cranberry sauce.

But a growing number of cutting-edge Western foodies, along with those for whom food is health-supporting fuel, are indeed going deep with what’s long been a high-fiber, high-protein staple in Asian countries like Japan.

There are also environmental benefits, as Lisette Kreischer, co-author along with Marcel Schuttelaar of the new cookbook Ocean Greens: Explore the World of Edible Seaweed and Sea Vegetables, noted during a recent interview with Josh Chamot of Nexus Media.

“This little green plant,” said Kreischer, “can save our planet.”

All while helping the economic lot of the approximately 40% of the global population that lives in coastal communities.

According to a research paper published in May 2014 by the Journal of Applied Phycology, seaweed cultivation “provides a wide variety of products for direct or indirect human uses that have an estimated total value approaching $10 billion per year.”

“This little green plant can save our planet.”

About 83% of that production is for human consumption. “The remainder is used as fertilizers in animal feed additives, medical applications and biotechnological applications.”

The industry is growing at more than two times the rate of global gross domestic product, at about 5.7% per year versus GDP expansion of about 2.5% in 2015.

Five types of seaweed — Saccharina, Undaria, Porphyra, Eucheuma/Kappaphycus, and Gracilaria — account for 98% of global cultivated production. “Saccharina and Eucheuma/Kappaphycus,” write the study authors, “are mostly produced as raw materials for the food and food polymer industries.”

Cultivating edible seaweed requires no agricultural land. Nor does it require fresh water.

As Kreischer explains, “The plant-based diet has been proven very efficient when it comes to the use of precious water and agricultural land — and it produces lower CO2 emissions and has the potential to feed everybody.”

Those are all compelling concepts.

There is, however, a major hurdle: making seaweed palatable on a large scale to a population accustomed to much heartier fare.

It’s easier said than done, though Kreischer’s enthusiasm is infectious: “It’s just such an adventurous new kid on the food block and it can make your taste buds rock!”

In addition to addressing the whys and the hows during her question-and-answer session with Chamot, Kreischer also shared a few recipes from Ocean Greens.

By way of introduction, Kreischer notes:

Seaweed contains many minerals and vitamins easily absorbed by the body, and because of its high concentration of fiber, sugars in the digestive system are absorbed more slowly, causing blood sugar levels to rise at a slower rate. Seaweed also contains many healthy fatty acids and important amino acids, and when properly prepared, it’s delicious. Because of the high levels of iodine and omega-3 fatty acids, seaweed should be consumed in moderation and as part of a well-balanced diet.

Kreischer’s “nice, thick” Squash & Seaweed Pancakes uses Hokkaido squash or other winter squash as the base for the cake and layers them with seaweed pesto and fresh purslane.

According to Kreischer: “The sweet pumpkin combines well with the briny kombu, and together they truly explode with taste.”

Cultivating edible seaweed requires no agricultural land. Nor does it require fresh water.

Pesto from the Sea owes its intense and powerful flavor to the use of kombu, edible kelp from the Laminariaceae family widely used in East Asia.

Finally, Just Another Tiramisu doesn’t employ seaweed per se, but it does use agar-agar, a plant-based thickener made from seaweed.

Kreischer’s dessert is a “delicious coconut mousse, dressed as a fashionable tiramisu.”

They’ve been cultivating seaweed in Asian nations such as Japan for almost 500 years.

The Land of the Rising Sun is an island nation with a robust maritime culture — there, cultivation of marine algae for human consumption is a large and growing industry.

In the United States, it’s still in the experimental phase, “a small market” that nevertheless is “growing rapidly.”

Environmentalists like Kreischer hope it’s a sustainable — and tasty — trajectory.

 

View original article at: Investors bet on farmed kelp being Alaska’s next seafood export

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