Bacon of the sea: OSU creates superfood seaweed that tastes like - KPTV - FOX 12

Bacon of the sea: OSU creates superfood seaweed that tastes like bacon

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Chris Langdon has been growing and studying dulse at Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport Oregon for decades. (Photo by Stephen Ward, OSU Extension and Experiment Station Communications) Chris Langdon has been growing and studying dulse at Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport Oregon for decades. (Photo by Stephen Ward, OSU Extension and Experiment Station Communications)
Jason Ball, research chef at the Food Innovation Center, Portland, Oregon prepares dishes made with the ingredient dulse. (Photo by Stephen Ward, OSU Extension and Experiment Station Communications) Jason Ball, research chef at the Food Innovation Center, Portland, Oregon prepares dishes made with the ingredient dulse. (Photo by Stephen Ward, OSU Extension and Experiment Station Communications)
Photo by Stephen Ward, OSU Extension and Experiment Station Communications. Photo by Stephen Ward, OSU Extension and Experiment Station Communications.
PORTLAND, OR (KPTV) -

Researchers at Oregon State University may have developed the greatest food product in the history of eating.

It's good for you. It grows rapidly. And, the real kicker, it tastes like bacon.

Initially, it might not sound or look too appetizing. It's a red marine algae called dulse that looks like translucent red lettuce and grows in the wild along the Pacific and Atlantic coastlines.

It's been used primarily in dried form as a cooking ingredient or nutritional supplement, but researcher Chris Langdon and colleagues at OSU's Hatfield Marine Science Center have now created and patented a new strain of dulse.

This strain is an excellent source of minerals, vitamins and antioxidants with up to 16 percent protein in dry weight. To put it in perspective, researchers say it has twice the nutritional value of a much better known superfood kale.

And kale doesn't taste like bacon.

According to the researchers and the chefs they've partnered with, this strain of dulse taste like bacon when it's fried.

"And it's a pretty strong bacon flavor," said Langdon, who has been growing dulse for 15 years. 

The whole project was initially geared toward feeding expensive abalone, not humans. Then a man with a mind for business came into the picture.

Chuck Toombs, a faculty members at OSU's College of Business, was looking for potential projects for students when he encountered Langdon's bubbling containers of dulse.

He saw it as a potential new industry for Oregon.

Toombs began working with OSU’s Food Innovation Center in Portland, where a product development team created a smorgasbord of new foods with dulse as the main ingredient. Among the most promising were a dulse-based rice cracker and salad dressing.

The research team received a grant from the Oregon Department of Agriculture to explore dulse as a “specialty crop," the first time a seaweed had made the list, according to Food Innovation Center director Michael Morrissey.

Langdon has two large tanks in which he can grow about 20-30 pounds of dulse a week, according to an OSU release. He has 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 potential recipes and products.

However, Toombs’ MBA students are preparing a marketing plan for a new line of specialty foods and exploring the potential for a new aquaculture industry.

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

There are no commercial operations that grow dulse for human consumption in the United States, according to Langdon, who said it has been used as a food in northern Europe for centuries.

The dulse sold in U.S. health food and nutrition stores is harvested, and is a different strain from the OSU-patented variety.

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