Umami- What it is and how you get it from seaweed

You may have come across the word umami, it’s commonplace in Japanese restaurants and on packaged foods such as ramen or seaweed. Umami can be described as a pleasant "brothy" or "meaty" taste with a long-lasting, mouthwatering and coating sensation over the tongue.

Umami, is a loan word from the Japanese  (うま味), umami can be translated as "pleasant savory taste." The word was first proposed in 1908 by Kikunae Ikeda. It wasn’t until 1985 the term was recognized as a scientific term to describe the taste of glutamates and nucleotides at the first Umami International Symposium in Hawaii. This symposium is still active today.

The English synonym would be Savory

Seaweeds are known to produce Umami flavor and are commonly used to make broths. A recent article published in the Journal of Food Measurement and Characterization outlined ideal flavor extraction process for Laminaria japonica, and showed all the flavor components. Below is a breakdown of the chemical constituents of the Umami taste in Laminaria japonica.

“Electronic tongue and electronic nose were used to assess the taste and flavor of the hydrolysate, respectively. Hexanal (43.31 ± 0.57%), (E)-2-octenal (10.42 ± 0.34%), nonanal (6.91 ± 0.65%), pentanal (6.41 ± 0.97%), heptanal (4.64 ± 0.26) and 4-ethylcyclohexanol (4.52 ± 0.21%) were the most abundant flavor compounds in the enzymatic hydrolysate with % peak areas in GC–MS. The contents of aspartic acid (11.27 ± 1.12%) and glutamic acid (13.79 ± 0.21%) were higher than other free amino acids in the enzymatic hydrolysate. Electronic tongue revealed a taste profile characterized by high scores on umami and saltiness .”

The shellfish industry needs a kelping hand in fighting ocean acidification

Ocean acidification is a daunting problem for shellfish farmers. It turns out that when the water becomes more acidic, the organisms aren’t so good at building their shells or reproducing. Oyster farms off the coast of Washington have already started to see the detrimental effects of increasing acidity.

In response, Paul G. Allen awarded $1.5 million to the Puget Sound Restoration Fund to investigate how kelp could help. Kelp and other seaweeds are able to take up CO2 out of the water, and therefore would make a micro climate of less acidic water. The research being led by Dr. Jonathan Davis , is specifically aimed at how kelps could be used around shellfish farms to create a acid buffer.

Davis is so optimistic, he has already began researching how the seaweed can be used as an additional commercial product for shellfish farmers. He is actively exploring kelp uses from food to fuel.

This multi-culture approach is really good idea. First off, these seaweeds would contribute to carbon drawdown, aiding in the removal of CO2 in the oceans. Additional benefits are protecting a farmers shellfish product while also adding a new revenue stream by selling seaweed products.

You can read more about the project here

You can read an article about Dr. Davis here

Blooming 3D-jelly cakes made from seaweed sugars.

If you haven’t heard of a blooming 3D cake, make sure you check out the video or link below. These cakes are built upside down into a jelly cake to create beautiful, edible, works of art.

A recent article highlighted Siew Heng Boon of Jelly Alchemy , who makes her cakes from algae-based gelatin rather than sourced from animals, this makes her cakes vegan friendly.

These cakes look amazing and incredibly fun to make. The video below shows how they are made.

New artificial shrimp are made from algae

A San Francisco based company called New Wave Foods, has just created artificial shrimp from algae products.

Shrimp is a favored seafood in the United States, however, shrimp harvesting and farming has many negative ecological consequences. Enters New Wave Foods: they have found a way to make synthetic shrimp from a variety of algal products. The shrimp texture comes from brown seaweed sugars, the flavor is from green algae oils, and the coloration is from red algae pigments.

Not only are these shrimp vegetarian, but also environmentally friendly.

Watch a video below on how these “shrimp” are made

Extracting proteins from seaweed just got a little easier.

If you were to talk into your local GNC vitamin shop, you would quickly realize that there is a wide range of options for protein supplementation. Depending on your price range, dietary restrictions, and ethics, you can choose from a variety of protein sources: milk, soy, pea, egg, hemp, rice, and other plants.

Why don’t we see seaweed protein? Seaweeds are fast growing, rich in protein, and are highly sustainable. A recent publication in the Journal of Applied Phycology suggests that their complex polysaccharide matrix hinders protein extraction. Reported conventional methods for seaweed protein extraction include aqueous, acidic and alkaline methods where extraction yield varies from 24 to 59%. The study focused on using enzymes to enhance the extraction process and was able to extract 74% of the proteins from giant kelp (M. pyrifera)

These results establish a firm basis for further studies on seaweed protein extracts as potential functional ingredients, or towards the production of bioactive peptides through a straightforward, and environmentally sustainable methodology.

From the makers of the seaweed surfboard, comes Triton flip-flops: sandals made from algae!

Flip-flops are the number one shoe in the world, and many are made from polymers that don’t break down, causing more pollution in our landfills and oceans.

Triton flip-flops are made from algae and are completely compostable. These alternative materials can help companies and consumers wane off disposable plastics.

Algae derived materials are growing in form and function and we expect that trend to continue.

Watch the video below about this new amazing product.

Shrimp farming is getting a boost from incorporating seaweeds

Aquaculture is beginning to shift from mono-culture to integrated multi-trophic aquaculture (IMTA). While IMTA is still relativity a new idea in the industry, nature has been doing it all along and new studies keep illustrating the benefits.

A study just came out this month (Jan 2019) that looked into adding seaweed to shrimp farms. The study added three seaweeds: Gracilaria vermiculophylla, Ulva lactuca,  and Dictyota dichotoma to ponds growing white legged shrimp Litopenaeus vannamei. Then shrimp were infected with V. parahaemolyticus and WSSV to assess disease resistance and response.

The use of macroalgae in co-culture with L. vannamei provided a nutritional benefit that achieved higher growth than the control organisms, as well as improvements of the ammonium concentration and immune response after infection with V. parahaemolyticus and WSSV.

The study concluded that these additional benefits were diet related, however, live seaweeds would change the water properties and testing water quality would be an interesting next step.

This is a good example how a company could change from one product to two while enhancing yield and quality of the original product with very little additional cost.

This research was published in the Journal of Fish & Shellfish Immunology

How ocean acidification could restructure natural seaweed communities

Sean Connell, of the Environment Institute at the University of Adelaide, recently conducted a study on the effects of ocean acidification (OA) on seaweed communities.

The study was completed in New Zealand’s Bay of Plenty where volcanic vents raise CO2 and increase the water acidity. What the researchers found was that kelp domination was replaced by fast growing turf species. Not only did the volcanic vents increase the growth of turf species, but also inhibited the production of a primary grazer (urchins). These coupled effects allowed turf species to become the dominant in simulated future ocean conditions.

The upper graph showing the control plot where kelp becomes the dominant. The lower graph shows plots with elevated CO2 that become turf dominated.

The upper graph showing the control plot where kelp becomes the dominant. The lower graph shows plots with elevated CO2 that become turf dominated.

Predictive studies are full of ambiguity, and fail to address longer term trends such as geographical shifts and adaptions, however, knowing these case studies allows us to be mindful of what we might expect along our own coast.

This study was published in Ecology and can be viewed here

Sodium alginate and human stem cells used to 3D-print tissues

Researchers at Penn State University found sodium alginate from seaweed can be used to “print” human tissues. Alginate mixed with human stem cells can be 3D-printed into tiny particles that create breathable tissues.

Currently the technology is limited to small strands, however, the researchers are confidant they will be able to create larger tissue patches in the future. The researchers believe these tissues could be used for bone and cartilage surgery , such as knee restoration, cartilage defects, and osteoarthritis.

Read the article here

U.S. seaweed consumption is growing about 7% a year

James E. Griffin, an associate professor at Johnson & Wales University , claims that the U.S. consumption of seaweeds is growing approximately 7% annually. Griffin made this claim at the NRA (National Restaurant Association) show in May 2018. He also stated that the fine-dinning sector is leading the charge, while the U.S. consumer still lags considerably behind Asia and Europe in consumption.

As with other sea food, most of the seaweed in the U.S. is imported from Asia, about 90% said Griffin. This means that the U.S. has a growing market with little local production. Griffin also pointed out that the seaweed source matters, as they can take up heavy metals from the surrounding water. The U.S. has higher restrictions and oversight on water pollution than most countries, and could be well positioned to pivot to producing rather than importing.

Read the article from Nation’s Restaurant News

Chileans are shifting from seaweed gatherers to cultivators

A recent article in Botanica Marina highlights a shift in the seaweed industry. The seaweed industry in Chile has predominately been a process of gathering off the coast, but that’s all changing now. The Chilean government provided subsidies to seaweed farming activities and investments in local valorization of the resources. The subsidies coupled with an increased number of technical studies related to seaweed resources has enabled the industry to pivot to seaweed cultivation.

New study uses matrix approach to evaluate ecosystem services by seaweeds

A new study recently came out from the Department of Conservation, Wellington, New Zealand, that uses a matrix approach to evaluate ecosystem services provided by a number of marine species.

The list of species evaluated included seaweeds, crustaceans, worms, and more. The services provided were broken into three main categories: habitat & supporting services , regulating services, and provisioning services.

While this study was New Zealand focused, it serves as a good reference of positive impacts by a species. Furthermore, a number of the study species are currently farmed and this study could be useful in aquaculture spatial planning.

The paper can be viewed here

Carrageenan and silver to combat drug resistant bacteria

Carrageenan is a sugar within some red seaweeds that gets a lot of attention in relation to human health and food additives. We covered this topic thoroughly here.

Lately carrageenan has been making headlines as a sustained release matrix for health applications. Researchers at Indian Institute of Technology, Roorkee (IIT-Roorkee), found that they could stabilize and extend the short shelf life of silver nanoparticles by adding a carrageenan matrix. The nano composite was able to kill both Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria, and had a shelf life of 6 months. The researchers believe this technology will be useful for wound dressing, food packing, and plan to investigate the possibilities as an anti-fungal and anti-viral agent as well.

The published research can be found here

Read more about the project from the Tech Explorist here

Chinese new year seaweed snack

As the new year approaches, you might find yourself hosting some friends and family for a late night celebration. The best way to stay up late is by keeping your energy up with an assortment of snacks. We recently found this fun Chinese new year snack that would be a welcome addition to any snack table.

Crispy Seaweed Crackers (酥炸紫菜饼)

To make this Chinese new year snack you will need some thin dried seaweed (like nori), some rice flower, and seasoning of choice.

  1. Mix rice flower, seasoning, and water until it forms a paste

  2. Cover seaweed with paste

  3. Fry in oil until golden brown (3-4 min)

  4. Once cooled these snacks can be stored in a dry sealed container

Read the full article here

Real kombucha is made from seaweed

Kombucha is commonly known as a fermented, slightly alcoholic, lightly effervescent, sweetened black or green tea drink. How kombucha came to mean black/green tea has been lost in translation. Real kombucha is made from seaweed.

In Japanese, Cha (茶) means tea, and kombu means brown seaweed (kelp), therefore kombucha is kelp tea!

Below is a video showing how real kombucha is made.

Food & Wine predicts seaweed to be one of the biggest food trends of 2019!

An article from Wood & Wine, listed their top 11 predictions for 2019. Each listed item was foretasted by a renowned chef. The predictions include everything from restaurant style, phone usage, and food.

Number 6 on the list is KELP! Marc Murphy, executive chef and owner of Benchmarc Restaurants, cookbook author, and Chopped judge, predicts you will start seeing more and more seaweed on menus. Murphy mentions, it’s a good sustainable option for diners and oceans.

If you are interested in the other predictions from 2019, read the full article here

Looking for an art and craft idea? How about seaweed holiday ornaments?

If you are looking for a fun arts and craft idea, try playing with some seaweed. Why go to a craft store and spend all that money when you can take a walk to the beach instead? Thin seaweeds can be dried in as little as one day, and will keep for years as long as they don’t get wet.

Arrange any seaweed in a shape and dry, it’s that easy! If you wish to hang your art you can glue to a poster or poke a hole for a string.

To dry seaweed, simply arrange it on anything from trays to cookie sheets to screens. You can also dry large kelp by hanging them over railings or on laundry lines. Place them in a warm room, in the sun, or in a warm oven. Thick kelp can even be shaped with some coat hangers for a more elaborate configuration.

You can also press seaweed just as you would flowers. Here's how (for seaweeds less than 0.5 inch thick seaweed):

Materials:

  • seaweed
    shallow pan
    freshwater or sea water
    heavy paper
    wax paper or plastic film
    old newspapers

    cardboard
    waterproof marking pen

Fill the pan with water and place the heavy paper in the pan. Then place the seaweed on top of the paper and carefully lift out the paper and seaweed.

Layer materials in this order: cardboard, newspaper, heavy paper with seaweed, wax paper, newspaper, cardboard. Repeat this process with other seaweeds, placing them on top of the first. Then you can move the whole pile to a flat place and put some weight, like rocks or a few bricks, on top. Change the newspapers and wax paper daily (to prevent molding) until the seaweed is dry. Some seaweeds contain a natural adhesive that will keep them stuck to the paper--others may need to be mounted with some glue.

Know you local regulations

Before you take seaweed from the beach, familiarize yourself with local laws and regulations. For instance, in CA with a fishing licence you may take up to 10 lbs of seaweed, except from protected areas or protected species. Children under 16 don’t require a licence.

Farm bill passes that dramatically expands federal support for algae agriculture!

Today a landmark farm bill has been approved by the U.S senate. The bill places algal farming as a top concern for the country and gives algal farmers some of the privileges that traditional farmers have always had.

  • Crop Insurance– Algae are explicitly added under the definition of “agricultural commodity” for the purposes of federal crop insurance programs, paving the way for federal crop insurance for algae production

  • Algae Agriculture Research Program– Establishes a new USDA Algae Agriculture Research Program to address challenges in farm-scale algae production and support development of algae-based agriculture solutions

  • Biomass Crop Assistance Program– Provides for the first time full eligibility to algae under the Biomass Crop Assistance Program. BCAP provides financial support to farmers for establishment, production and delivery of new biomass crops

  • Biobased Markets Program (BioPreferred)– Directs USDA to establish methodology providing full credit for biobased content for products from biologically recycled carbon. Current USDA methodology excludes biobased products from recycled carbon.

  • Biorefinery Assistance (9003 Loan Guarantee) Program – Expands the section 9003 loan guarantee program to allow algae-based and other biorefinery projects for the manufacture of renewable chemicals and biobased products to qualify regardless of whether biofuels will be produced

  • Carbon Capture and Use – Adds several provisions expanding CCU research, education and outreach at the Department of Agriculture

This is a big win for algae and the USA!

The bill is to cross president trumps desk for a final signature before Christmas.

You can read the entire 800 page bill here

Climate change is raising iodine levels in seaweed. Cause for alarm? We think not.

A recent publication in Global Change Biology, reported that changing atmospheric and oceanic conditions, due to climate change, are raising the levels of iodine in seaweeds that can transfer up the food web. We think this is a great paper, and we strongly believe that many aspects of the ocean should be analysed to model future ocean conditions. Most work on algae in respects to climate change have been limited to calcifying reds, and the coral symbiot zooxanthellae. Seaweeds are the second largest biomass harvested from the oceans and more research is needed for that market.

A few news articles ran with the idea that seaweeds are becoming toxic, and are making headlines. While humans need iodine, too much can cause some of the same symptoms as iodine deficiency, including goiter (an enlarged thyroid gland) (NIH). However, we suggest caution when saying all seaweeds will become toxic.

For instance in the paper the study species Saccharina japonica was used, which is a species that is known to already have high concentrations of iodine. Saccharina and other species of brown seaweeds (kelp/ kombu) have much higher concentrations of iodine than other species (see figure below). Most consumed seaweeds (dulse, nori, wakame) have iodine levels 5x lower than Saccharina, and even with increases from climate change would not be considered dangerous.

People around the world choose to eat seaweeds because it’s rich in minerals including iodine, and we suspect this fact will not change. We encourage people to pay attention to the nutrition labeling on seaweed foods and monitor how much they consume. When reading papers or nutrition labels, note the seaweed condition (Dry vs. fresh). Most weight in seaweeds is attributed to water, and a serving size between dry and fresh can be a large difference. We also want to emphasize that iodine is not accumulated in your tissues, such as heavy metals.

We hope good studies like this continue, but use caution when reading news that oversimplifies the results.

Image from American Thyroid Association 2004.  Full article here

Image from American Thyroid Association 2004. Full article here