Seaweed: The Next Kale?

Entrepreneurs are making the case that seaweed, a nutrient-rich but weird food source, should go mainstream. Even if it doesn't, kelp could still prove key.

By Ernie Smith

In Tuesday’s issue, I briefly noted how a Maine man was looking to revive straws made from rye—a practice that had fallen out of favor thanks to the invention of the paper straw.

It appears that rye straws aren’t the only unusual food-related item coming out of the Pine Tree State. Another entrepreneur, a guy named Josh Rogers, is attempting to make the case for tea made from seaweed.

“A lot of people don’t think it’s weird anymore,” Rogers told the Portland Press-Herald late last month.

There is an air of tradition when it comes to seaweed in Maine—one specifically cited by Rogers as a reason for starting his tea brand. While it’s not necessarily a phenomenon that’s caught on in a big way yet, the trend lines are moving in that general direction. Maine Public Radio last year noted that “sea greens” like kale, alaria, and dulse, are selling with some fairly sizable price tags—as much as $15 per pound. And while they’ve had a place in health food stores, manufacturers are aiming a bit bigger.

Helping with matters is Harvard sustainable food expert Barton Seaver, who last year wrote a cookbook full of seaweed-based recipes. Seaver, a chef who directs Harvard’s Healthy and Sustainable Food Program, took a bullish line on seaweed.

“You know what? Kelp is the new kale, and watch out, ‘cause it’s coming,” Seaver said in an interview with the public radio outlet. “And it’ll be everywhere in the next decade.”

Whether or not he’s right about that (though it'll be an easier sell in some countries than others), there is one place where seaweed could make some major inroads: In the realm of edible containers. Sleeping Rocks Lab’s Ooho, a spherical blob of water that is tasteless and odorless, is intended to stop the use of plastic water bottles. And yes, it's made out of seaweed—which means if this technology ever takes off, you could be eating seaweed without even realizing it.

That's good for Maine, and potentially good for the environment.

Ernie Smith

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Ernie Smith is the editor of Tedium, and an active internet snarker. Between his many internet side projects, he finds time to hang out with his wife Cat, who's funnier than he is.

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