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Environment & Science

OSU scientists develop super-food seaweed that tastes like bacon




Jason Ball, research chef at the Food Innovation Center, Portland, Oregon prepares dishes made with the ingrediant dulse. Dulse is a type of seaweed variety currently being grown and researched at the Hattfield Marine Science Center in Newport, Oregon by Chris Langdon. The FIC, Hattfield, and the Oregon Business School with Chuck Toombs are working together to bring OSU grown dulse to the market.
Jason Ball, research chef at the Food Innovation Center, Portland, Oregon prepares dishes made with the ingrediant dulse. Dulse is a type of seaweed variety currently being grown and researched at the Hattfield Marine Science Center in Newport, Oregon by Chris Langdon. The FIC, Hattfield, and the Oregon Business School with Chuck Toombs are working together to bring OSU grown dulse to the market.
Stephen Ward

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Researchers at Oregon State University have developed a new strain of an edible marine algae called dulse that is high in protein and packs twice the nutritional punch of trusty kale.

It just might be the next big, trendy super-food. Because, here's the clincher — it tastes like bacon.

Take Two spoke with Oregon State Professor of Fisheries Chris Langdon about this magical seaweed that he and his colleagues at the Hatfield Marine Science Center have patented and hope to bring to the plant-loving, health-conscious masses. 

Interview Highlights

What is this miracle seaweed?

This is a red seaweed that is occurring naturally here on the West coast, all the way from Alaska to California. Palmaria Mollis, which is the scientific name for dulse, has been around for a very long time. But we've discovered a new strain called C3, and it's a fast-growing strain.

We get growth rates under optimal conditions of about 18 percent a day, which is really amazing...it ranks up with maize and rice and corn, some of the most productive terrestrial crops on the planet.

It also has a high protein content; so we found, typically, protein contents of about 16 percent. It's very nutritious in other ways; it has a lot of minerals, iodine, polyphenols, anti-oxidants, carotenoids, and poly-unsaturated fatty acids.

Does it really taste like bacon?

That's the real clincher. Unfortunately, it doesn't have quite the texture of bacon and all that wonderful fattiness of bacon; but in terms of the fattiness, it's actually more healthy for you because it does not have cholesterol. 

You have to fry the dulse to get that bacon flavor. If you just eat it raw, it doesn't have that bacon flavor.

You still have to prepare it to get the bacon flavor, but you can fry it in good fats like olive oil or canola oil, that's going to give you a much better fatty-acid profile.

So, that's the magic. I think for vegetarians, vegans, and some ethnic groups who can't eat pork, this might be something that is very exciting for them.

On a scale of 1 to 10 — 10 tasting exactly like bacon — where does Dulse rank?

I would say it's probably ranking around seven. Six to seven. It's not a perfect replica, but it's certainly close. It has a savory flavor, definitely a meaty flavor, and then this bacon overtone. 

Colleagues up at the Food Innovation Center in Portland have actually smoked dulse, so there may be smoked 'dulse bacon' in the future.

To listen to Take Two's entire interview with Chris Langdon, please click on the audio player above.