Food of the future
There are those who believe we’ll have to resort to eating algae to survive. With the world’s population growing, it’s predicted we’ll soon outstrip traditional nutritional resources, although given the current milk-powder glut we may be okay.
A diet rich in algae won’t be a bad thing; especially now that scientists at Oregon State University have discovered an algae that, when fried, tastes like bacon. Who doesn’t like bacon? Vegans, and the many faiths that forbid the eating of swine, can rejoice.
Of course the scientists don’t refer to it as algae, but by the far more palatable term “seaweed”. Varieties of this particular seaweed have long been a source of nutrition from Ireland to Iceland and down along the coast of the North Eastern USA.
Known as Dulse, it looks like translucent red lettuce. It has twice the nutritional value of kale, a vegetable that no matter what one does to it will never taste like bacon, unless it’s feed to a pig to fatten it up.
Better yet, Dulse grows quickly and is remarkably versatile. It can be pan-fried to make chips, baked under cheese, eaten with butter, or in anything from chowders to sandwiches. One chap from the Nordic food lab even used it to make beer. Try doing that with any one of your land-grown greens.
Dulse also goes nicely with the other seafood that is being mooted as a lifesaver, krill. Growing to around 6cm in length, there are so many of these mini-crustaceans swimming about in swarms of billions, that they represent one of the largest biomasses of any individual species.
Those who wish to harvest them proclaim that there is no shortage of krill – but that’s what they said about the passenger pigeon, once the most abundant bird in the world. Reports from the 1800s described flocks taking days to pass. They were also very tasty, and they’re now extinct.
Krill oil is the purported to be the new wonder-food for the brain. Rich in omega 3, the oil is extracted from the krill and put into health supplementing capsules. Sadly the health of the krill that contribute the oil is not enhanced.
Does it really better the brain? Well, the largest consumer (literally) of krill is the blue whale. It’s the biggest animal ever to have lived. The whale’s tongue is the weight of an elephant, it has the largest penis in the world, and the loudest voice, yet despite the four ton a day of krill it eats, its brain weighs a mere seven kilograms. If that seems a lot of brain, remember that an adult blue whale weighs 180,000kg.
In any case, we don’t have to worry about the blue whale competing with our krill harvest, because we’ve done away with most of them for their oil too.
If it’s not algae or krill on the menus of the future it may very well be jellyfish. Although reported to be like eating tasteless, dried rubber bands, we have an overabundance of them, thanks to warming seas.
Increasingly tepid waters have been blamed for the huge rise in jellyfish numbers, which has seen power plant water intakes blocked, fishing industries wiped out, and swimmers stung.
One bright side of their blossoming numbers is seeing people try to convince their friends that the only way to stop the pain of the sting is by urinating on them. It doesn’t. But it’s great fun to try.
Perhaps the only way to bring nature into balance is to find a way to make jellyfish delicious. It would make a nice accompaniment to the algae.