Seaweed: Sustainable Pasta SubstitutePublished: 17-11-2015, | Member: Seamore Holding
Seaweed has clear health benefits over wheat pasta, as it contains fewer fast carbs and more fiber, vitamins and minerals. Himanthalia elongata, a common Atlantic Ocean seaweed, is marketed by Dutch startup Seamore as a sustainable pasta substitute. Seaweed is an excellent food source that can help guarantee future food security.
Seaweed is an excellent food source that can help guarantee future food security. Its high nutritional value and sustainability make it an attractive alternative food. It grows naturally in seas and oceans worldwide and is steadily getting easier to grow commercially. Its potential is enormous. There are more than 10,000 types of seaweed, many of which are edible. Wageningen UR is one of the institutions developing sophisticated growing technologies. Seaweed is a widely used ingredient in Asian cuisine.
Willem Sodderland, founder and sole shareholder of Seamore, discovered Himanthalia elongata by accident. On vacation in Ibiza, he ordered a seaweed salad and was served something he was convinced was pasta. To his great surprise, the chef insisted the strands on his plate were not pasta but seaweed. Sodderland immediately realized there was a market for this product, and now, one years later, Sodderland’s Seamore startup has launched its seaweed pasta using money raised through a crowd funding campaign.
Eating Himanthalia elongata is not new. The variety is a traditional ingredient in several European countries, where it is known as ‘sea thong’ or ‘sea spaghetti’. Seamore uses seaweed from the rocky coast of Ireland, where it occurs naturally. The long strands are harvested from late April to late July. The quantity gathered is capped at a maximum of 15% per bay. Harvesting more would not be sustainable, because the seaweed needs time to regenerate. The local population in Ireland is grateful for the harvest season jobs as unemployment there is high.
The harvested seaweed is dried in special drying chambers, packed into big bags and shipped to the Netherlands in Dutch-based delivery trucks that would otherwise make their return trip from Ireland empty. Seamore is currently investigating the possibility of expanding its harvesting area to include locations on the French and Spanish coasts.
“The nutritional value of Himanthalia elongata is amazing,” says Carina Noordervliet, nutritionist and in-house chef at Seamore. One of her tasks is developing recipes for the new product. The seaweed contains fewer calories than regular wheat pasta. It is low on carbohydrates but contains a lot of fiber, protein, iodine, iron and Omega 3 fatty acids. Noordervliet sees great potential for the product. “This seaweed has a neutral, umami taste and good bite. We had several taste testing panels try it and they all loved it. Even children like it.”
There is a growing interest in Seamore’s products. Several stores and web stores want to start selling the seaweed pasta. As Noordervliet puts it: “We’re lucky we can jump on the bandwagon. Seaweed fits right in with the current superfood and sustainability trends. Actually, the whole thing is taking off far more quickly than we’d expected. We think seaweed is here to stay; it is going to become a fixed part of people’s diet in the next few years.”
Meanwhile, Sodderland is busy thinking of new seaweed products. “There are ten thousand seaweed varieties,” says Sodderland. “Just think of all the things we could do with these! Our primary goal is to introduce a seaweed substitute for some well-known, widely eaten food products like bread and potato chips. I want to prove that we can turn seaweed into a normal part of many people’s diet. How many people? If we manage to convince thousands of people to embrace seaweed in the next few months, we will have demonstrated an incredible proof of concept. Then we’ll know for sure that we can win over many, many more.”