Scientists have discovered a new strain of seaweed that tastes like bacon. Not even kidding. The strain is a type of dulse, which is actually a common sea vegetable popular in Asian cooking because of its high protein content and umami flavor. Researchers at Oregon State University created a brand new strain that, when fried, doesn’t taste like seaweed at all. Instead, it takes on the coveted smoky deliciousness of a food many people just can’t quit. This bacon-mimicking seaweed is also twice as nutritious as kale (as if you needed a second reason to want some).
Researcher Chris Langdon and colleagues at OSU’s Hatfield Marine Science Center have patented the new strain, which Langdon has been growing for the past 15 years. He’ll be a hero in the vegan culinary world this new dulse hits the market. The succulent red marine algae is a fast-growing and super nutritious plant, packed with up to 16 percent protein by dry weight as well as being an excellent source of minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants. “Dulse is a super-food,” according to Chuck Toombs, a faculty member in OSU’s College of Business, “with twice the nutritional value of kale.”
The strain was initially developed in an effort to find a more efficient way to feed abalone, which is a treasured delicacy in Asia. That worked; the dulse-fed abalone grow at a faster rate and are of the high quality sought after in top seafood markets. Still, Langdon says there was always an interest in growing this type of seaweed for human consumption as well. The dulse variety that Langdon and his team cultivated can be grown in offshore farms, which Toombs recognized as “a potential for a new industry for Oregon.” The research team was able to secure a grant and bring in a chef to explore the possibility of growing this new strain of dulse for restaurants and public sales.
In Portland, an extremely vegan-friendly city, restaurant chefs are clamoring for a taste of this new vegan bacon. Vegan chefs have been trying to replicate bacon-y goodness for quite some time, using everything from mushrooms to eggplant, but there’s usually a lot of work involved. Some will continue to argue that vegan bacon isn’t really a thing, but maybe they will change their minds when their tastebuds get ahold of this hidden treasure from the ocean.
Images via Oregon State University/Flickr