Researchers looking into growing kelp for food in Atlantic Canada

A group of Atlantic Canada researchers is looking into how to grow kelp for food, and some chiefs at Holland College are helping them by coming up with new ways to serve the algae as a meal.

Canada's Smartest Kitchen at Holland College developing new ways to prepare algae

Sugar kelp is shown from one of the sites in Cape Breton. (Aquaculture Association of Nova Scotia)

Researchers in Atlantic Canada are looking into how to grow kelp for food, and some chiefs at Holland College are helping them by coming up with new ways to serve it as a meal.

Three community colleges in the region have teamed up to map out wild kelp beds underwater in order to identify where they can grow and study the algae.

Holland College's Canada's Smartest Kitchen is contributing to the project by exploring ways to make kelp tasty and nutritious.

"We're doing things like drying the kelp, powderizing it, using some fermenting techniques, pickling techniques," said Tim McRoberts, a chef and the director of Canada's Smartest Kitchen. 

"There's lots of different foods being made here such as breads or pickles, chips, crackers, a couple of beverages, some bakery items, and even a vegan jerky."

McRoberts said kelp is a low-calorie food that is eaten around the world. He said it could present a big opportunity for the Atlantic region, where production isn't as developed as in the West Coast.

There are a handful of farmers in Nova Scotia who were growing kelp as part of a pilot project.

Sustainable harvesting possible, researcher says

Tim Webster, director of the Applied Geomatics Research Group at the Nova Scotia Community College, said there's also some appetite to start growing kelp in Newfoundland.

Webster's team has been mapping the kelp beds by using remote sensing, and surveying them through underwater filming and other methods.

"From that, if people wanted to start growing kelp, they would then know where the local broodstock could be," he said. 

"They could use local kelp to start their farm, for example. As well, if the kelp is in good shape and everything is well, there's an opportunity, perhaps, to be able to harvest some of that in a sustainable manner so that we're not destroying it or damaging it beyond repair."

Webster said people could possibly harvest some of the wild kelp that attaches to bedrock or boulders as is done with rockweed, though he said all such activities should be sustainable.

One dish the kitchen has developed is a fettuccine pasta made from kelp, which turns into a brilliant green colour once it's boiled. Webster gave it a taste during a stop in Arichat in Cape Breton.

"They were nice and tender, very similar in texture to a noodle made with wheat. The flavour was very mild," he said. 

"I had it with a seafood sauce. Some of the folks from Arichat were very kind to give us some snow crab and so on. It turned out to be a lovely meal."

The College of the North Atlantic is the third institution participating in the project.

With files from Island Morning


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