A new book, “Enzymatic Technologies for Marine Polysaccharides” contains an interesting chapter on seaweeds called, “The manufacture, characterization, and uses of fucoidans from macroalgae.

Fucoidans are sulfated, complex, fucose-rich, polymers found in brown seaweeds, most notably the order Fucales known as the fucoids. The chapter details extraction methods and uses in food supplements, pharmaceuticals, bio-materials, cosmetics, and animal/ agricultural applications.

The authors claim that most fucoidan available on the market are for dietary supplementation, however, they admit that the molecule species is hard to identify and robust identification assays should be employed in any bioactive study. There is a new interest in animal health relating to fucoidan, and could be an emerging market.

Focoidans are considered safe and have a variety of uses, again showing how a completely sustainable resource (seaweeds) have a variety of revenue streams.

Marvel's Eat the Universe: aquatic-themed sandwich with fresh seaweed

This is fun! On a new digital series, Marvel’s Eat the Universe, celebrity chef Justin Warner is joined by special guests to craft unique, fun dishes inspired by Marvel characters and stories!

In this episode, chef Brian Tsao creates an aquatic-themed sandwich inspired by Namor the Sub-Mariner! The sandwich uses fresh seaweed along with fried bay scallops, shrimp, calamari, oysters, and white fish.

For the directions follow the link here and you can watch the video below.

Ramen with kelp stock!

Ramen is a popular Japanese dish, it consists of noodles served in a meat or (occasionally) fish-based broth, often flavored with soy sauce or miso. There are also a variety of toppings available.  Ramen has become a culinary explosion, with ramen shops popping up all over the USA.

However, going out for ramen with vegetarian friends can lead to mixed reviews. The main difference comes in the vegetarian broth, and the broth is what makes or breaks a bowl of ramen. To answer this problem, some chefs have started making kelp broths. Kelp broth will naturally have a meaty (umami) taste with a hint of salty ocean. We recently read a review in Broadsheet (food and drink section) from a die-hard ramen fan in Australia. The author of the piece, Molly Urquhart, goes into great detail about her typical disappointment with vegetarian ramen, and how her discovery of kelp broth is more than satisfactory.

We hope to see more ramen shops incorporating their own version of seaweed or kelp broth. Kelp stock would be an excellent meat broth alternative being sustainable, healthy, and economically viable.

Portland chef says, "Throw some seaweed in that!"

Portland chef Mike Wylie suggests using dried seaweed like bay leaves in your everyday cooking. You’ll be doing the local, sustainable seaweed economy a big favor.

At a networking event “Why Seaweed Matters” Wylie said that when he walks through any of the Big Tree Hospitality kitchens he co-owns and operates, and he sees a pot of anything simmering on the stove, “I’m like ‘throw some seaweed in that!’ because it makes most things taste better.” Seaweed deepens flavor in dishes stemming from many other cultures, everything from vegetable soup and tomato sauce to rice and beans and meaty braises.

When including dried seaweed in your everyday cooking, for every quart of liquid, add a 2- by 2-inch piece of dried seaweed, before setting the pot to simmer. The rule of thumb is that most seaweed has done its work after 30-40 minutes in the pot.

You can read more about “why kelp matters” on the FB event page

Seaweed inspired organic sunscreen

As we leave winter behind, it will soon be time to dust off the sunglasses and purchase a bottle of your favorite sunscreen.

Sunscreens have received a lot of bad press lately, either because of their ability to damage skin or because they wash off into the ocean and are toxic to marine life. An Icelandic company Taramar has been working to address these issues. Taramar focuses on skin health by the use of natural molecules found in plants. Recently they turned their attention to seaweed.

Their result was the TARASÓL UV filter which lacks preservatives and is safe for the skin and body.

Professor Gudrun Marteinsdottir, founder and CEO of Taramar, says, “TARASÓL is the result of years of basic research in marine biology and nutritional science leading to new knowledge on the functional properties of seaweed.″

Taramar has not disclosed the molecule from seaweed. However, we know that plants have developed ways of avoiding UV damage and this could be a good way to harness what nature already knows to produce a safe organic alternative to traditional sunscreens.

Operation Crayweed: restoring Sydney's underwater forests.

Sydney Australia used to have a rich coastline teeming with life, and crayweed (Phyllospora comosa) stretched far and wide. Crayweed is a brown macroalga that forms dense bushy habitat for a variety of marine life. Sometime back in the 80s, crayweed largely disappeared, and much of the inhabitants with it. While the cause of the crayweed reduction was unclear, many point to prolonged poor water quality.

The water quality in Sydney has improved, but the crayweed didn’t bounce back as expected. Thus enters Operation Crayweed, an effort to restore the natural population of crayweed around Sydney. The group settles crayweed onto mats, then divers deploy and secure the mats so the crayweed can naturally spread.

Below is a wonderful video outlining the effort. What a good way to rebuild an ecosystem, from the bottom up! Read more about Operation Crayweed at http://www.operationcrayweed.com/

Seaweed in your garden: a good fertilizer and potential pest control

Many people around the world for centuries have known that seaweeds are an excellent fertilizer. Recently people have been reporting another benefit of using seaweeds in their garden, pest control.

When these reports started rolling in, researchers began experimenting on apple orchards, and so far have some conflicting data. One experiment in Washington found mite populations reduced when seaweed extracts were applied to the apples. However, in Vermont, another team found no difference in mite population but did report a reduction of maggots.

While the research remains inconclusive, many garden enthusiasts swear by it. Some claim that the timing of application is important, depending on where you are geographically and the type of pests you encounter.

Liquid seaweed is a common store item that can be used as fertilizer and pest control.

Further research into the mechanisms of these deterrents is needed. If conclusive, seaweeds could be an excellent organic pesticide for home or industrial use.

New review published on bioactive metabolites within seaweeds

A new review of bioactive metabolites in seaweeds was just published in Aquaculture. The review focused on carotenoids, polyunsaturated fatty acids, phycocolloids and sterols along with their chemical ecology.

Seaweeds are commonly harvested and consumed because of their high vitamin and antioxident content. However, secondary metabolites are widely used in the pharmaceutical and commercial sector for the production of algae derived phycocolloids like carrageenan, algin, steroids, lectins, agar, and carotenoids.

The review concluded that “seaweeds have a wide range of bioactive secondary metabolites which exhibits different pharmacological activity like anticancer, an-tifungal, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant activity. The secondary metabolites obtained from the seaweeds are also widely used as healthier food ingredients in the manufacture of nutraceuticals throughout the world. The presence of diverse pharma-cologically effectual bioactive metabolites in the natural seaweeds makes it unique and indispensable in the identification of lead molecule for the new drug discovery.”

Pseudoscience in food health is extremely prevalent on the internet and social media. Rigorous studies and reviews on bioactives like these can help consumers separate true from perceived health benefits of their food.

New study examines the lipid profile of the sugar kelp (Saccharina latissima)

A recent study titled ”Polar lipid profile of Saccharina latissima, a functional food from the sea” was just published in the journal, Algal Research.

Saccharina latissima is a brown alga (kelp). It is known by the common name sugar kelp, and also sea belt or Devil's apron, due to its shape. Sugar kelp grows relatively fast and large (about 5 meters, or 16 feet long), and its ability to be grown on a long line also makes it an appealing species for near shore cultivation. Indeed sugar kelp farms have been on the rise within the USA.

The researchers examined all the lipids within sugar kelp important for either nutrition or other commercial use. They reported high levels of PUFAs (polyunsaturated fatty acids), such as the highly prized omega-3s, EPA and DHA that are typically sourced from fish oils. Western diets present high levels of omega-6 PUFAs, with a nutritional ratio omega-6/omega-3 greater than 2, which has been associated with increased risk of mortality due to cancer, cardiovascular, inflammatory and autoimmune diseases. However, marine macroalgae, such as S. latissima, present a much higher prevalence of omega-3 PUFAs than land vegetables. A diet rich in omega-3 PUFAs can reduce Omega-6/Omega-3 ratio, being nutritionally more healthful and contributing to the prevention of chronic diseases

Scientists sequence the genome of popular Japanese seaweed (Cladosiphon okamuranus) in preparation for climate change

Each year, thousands of tons of seaweed is harvested along the coast of Okinawa, Japan. However, scientists are warning that anthropogenic climate change will lower the annual yield and create a demand for new farming methods.

Researchers at the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University (OIST) have sequenced the genome a popular brown seaweed, mozuku (Cladosiphon okamuranus). As pollution and rising temperatures changes the ocean, this data may provide critical information for local seaweed farmers.

“My future plan is to establish new methods for cultivation of this species,” said Dr. Nishitsuji. “Using those markers, we can do cross-breeding. This is a popular method for making new varieties of land plants, especially wheat and potatoes, but in the case of seaweed, no one has succeeded in cross-breeding.”

As the ocean changes, seaweed farmers will need these genetic tools to enhance breeding programs.

The study can be viewed here at Scientific Reports

Using macroalgae as an indicator of ocean conditions through time.

Researchers in Japan recently published a study in the Journal of Oceanography on using position-dependent radiocarbon as an indicator of oceanographic conditions during algal growth.

The macroalga Undaria pinnatifida grows in a predictable way, older growth at the top and the new growth is at the bottom (image below)

undaria_growth.jpg

The researchers hypothesized that the age of the Undaria tissue would correlate with ocean conditions through time. Inorganic carbon ∆14C was tracked in tissues and ambient water through time. The study concluded that inorganic carbon in the Undaria tissues did correlate with oceanic samples through time.

They concluded that this technique “provides a new tool to better understand the role of oceanographic conditions in sustaining coastal ecosystem productivity.”

It will be interesting to see this new approach applied to other species, such as Pterygophora californica, which can live upwards of 15 years.

Flexible Conductors from Brown Algae for Green Electronics

Researchers recently published about novel conductors in Advanced Sustainable Systems. What makes these conductors so novel is they are made from brown algae or kelps.

Alginate from brown seaweeds are are used to make a flexible sodium alginate film. Ultrathin gold layers are then added to the alginate film. The resulting foils are thin, easy to handle, and shape, while showing good conductive properties.

The researchers believe this novel use of sodium alginate conductors is a “very promising candidate to be employed in green electronics, thanks to the reduced energy consumption required for their fabrication, the absence of toxic components or chemicals that are derived from oil, and the possibility to disassemble the devices at the end of their life in environmentally friendly conditions.”

The research can be viewed here

"I want kelp on every table in America"

Sarah Redmond, founder of Springtide Seaweed, has a clear vision for the future of seaweed cultivation. Springtide is perusing an additional 20 acre site to accompany their 35 acre site off Stave Island Maine. Redmond claims there is plenty of room for growth when it comes to seaweed cultivation and that it can be done sustainably without competing with other marine activities.

Springtide Seaweed’s products are powders that can be used as culinary seasonings and salt substitutes. Redmond said, “I want kelp on every table in America,” she said. “It is nature’s true healthy salt.”

Read the full article here from BDN Hancock

Old stories told by a retired priest on how to live off seaweed.

Fiona Bird, author of Seaweed in the Kitchen, tells a fascinating story about an old priest that grew up on seaweed.

Canon Angus MacQueen, born in 1923 lived on the isle of Barr UK. MacQueen recounts stories of living off the land and sea. For instance the importance of seaweed as a fertilizer. The seaweed used as manure is kelp, Laminaria digitata, and Laminaria hyperborea. The Islanders refer to as “tangle“. He was also quoted saying “After a year or two you became an expert on what to eat and what not to eat. What to eat, was nice things, like the baby seaweed on the tangle (kelp) – the dulse. We grew throughout the summer months feeding ourselves on seaweed.”

The entire story can be read here, and is a wonderful look into old-time farm/island living and shows how important seaweeds were to these people for centuries.

Seaweed takes the number one spot on Martha Stewart's top 5 food trends

Martha Stewart’s magazine featured an article on forecasting the top 5 food trends. Taking the number one spot was seaweed!

The article talks about the Summer Fancy Food Show held last year. At the show seaweed was on full display. Maine-based seaweed company Ocean’s Balance made a splash by rolling out two new products: jarred kelp purée and Japanese inspired seaweed sprinkles, which can be used as a savory topping for everything from rice to toast.

Shortly after the Summer Fancy Food Show, Oceans Balance received a $100,000 prize for its edible seaweed products. The award comes from “Greenlight Maine,” a T.V. show that promotes small businesses and startups in the region.

Seaweeds are gaining the attention of chefs, restaurants, and entrepreneurs around the country. It’s no wonder why it came up as the number one food trend.

Carrageenan extracted from red seaweeds could be used as an antifungal

A recent study, published in the Journal of Applied Phycology, assessed if carrageenan could be used as an antifungal.

Carrageenan is a sugar extracted from some red seaweeds that is commonly used in a variety of food products as a thickening agent. A previous post went into great detail about carrageenan traits, uses, and impact on human health.

The recent study examined kappa/iota carrageenan belonging to the gametophyte phase and a hybrid xi/theta carrageenan in the tetrasporophyte phase of Chondracanthus teedei  applied to a few species in the genus Alternaria. Alternaria species are known as major plant pathogens. They are also common allergens in humans, growing indoors and causing hay fever or hypersensitivity reactions that sometimes lead to asthma.

Carrageenan induced the formation of swollen hyphal segments upon exposure to as little as 125 and 60 μg mL−1. These results are similar as to those induced by antifungals targeting the fungal cell wall.

The researchers concluded that carrageenan from Chondracanthus teedei  causes physical alterations of the cell wall in Alternaria sp. indicating antifungal activity.

Kelp farming is therapeutic, introducing the Salt Sisters group

Today we discovered the Salt Sisters, a campaign to help women in recovery connect with themselves and their inner strength through a connection with nature.

Founded by Colleen Francke, the Salt Sisters use kelp farming as a way to recovery and support.

“This project isn’t just about growing kelp, helping the environment, or diversifying out of a troubled industry,” says Francke. “I want to show others, and largely women like myself, who may think that they have nothing or no way out of where they are, that in fact they have every opportunity in the world.”

We can’t support this enough! We salute you, Salt Sisters! Keep up the good work.

Read the full article here from National Fisherman

New report: "Development of Offshore Seaweed Cultivation: food safety, cultivation, ecology and economy"

Offshore of northern Europe, a seaweed farm known as NSF (North Sea Farm). NSF was established in 2014 and is committed to developing a strong and healthy seaweed supply chain, in and from the Netherlands. This farm has been studied in a number of ways to assess ecological and economical impacts.

A recent report was just released evaluating economics, food safety, and ecological impacts of offshore seaweed farming.

Studies like these are extremely valuable to validate ecosystem services provided by seaweed farming, and should be conducted in numerous locations around the USA to be ecosystem specific.

General conclusions from the report below

  • high variability in chemical and contaminant composition of kelps, with only one month between sampling moments, was observed. This demonstrates the potential to harvest at the right moment, to provide the processing industry with desired products. However, it simultaneously shows the challenge to provide products with stable biochemical composition.

  • economic analysis indicates that relatively low-value markets such as the alginates are within reach for seaweed production in the North Sea, though for the near future a mix of medium- and low-value markets needs to be targeted

  • seaweed cultivation can have significant effect on the surrounding ecosystem, including biodiversity enhancement. But site specific information is required for the North Sea to evaluate how this activity relates to for example requirements by marine framework directives, and if farm management can further stimulate the ecosystem services provided by seaweed cultivation (through timing of harvest and/or technical adaptations to become more nature inclusive).