A Side of Seaweed, Please

19671234455_22e56af667_oIMAGINE THE TASTE OF SEAWEED.  Something briny, slightly “fishy,” you think. A flavor reminiscent of the pungent scent of the seashore, perhaps? The taste and smell of bacon sizzling in a pan probably doesn’t cross your mind.

But last summer when Oregon State University researchers announced the development of a new strain of seaweed tasting remarkably like bacon when cooked, the news caught the attention of foodies everywhere. It was hailed as the holy grail of good eating — a nutrition-packed marine plant as yummy as a fat-loaded meat product.

Its common name is “dulse,” a red seaweed native to the north Pacific and Atlantic coasts. Originally bred by OSU aquaculture researcher Chris Langdon as a food for abalone, that changed one day when OSU marketing professor Chuck Toombs toured Langdon’s lab in Newport. When he looked at the ruddy algae growing in row after row of 6,000-gallon tanks, he saw a marketing bonanza.

“Dulse is a superfood, with twice the nutritional value of kale,” Toombs enthuses. “OSU has developed a variety that can be farmed, with the potential for a new industry on the Oregon coast.”

Now, thanks to OSU’s Food Innovation Center in Portland, dulse products are already on grocery store shelves. Toss your salad with Tamari with Dulse Seaweed Dressing & Marinate, created by OSU research chef Jason Ball along with New Seasons Markets and Dulse Foods of Lake Oswego. In the pipeline are rice crackers and trail mix, among others.