One of the most prominent criticisms (and deliberations) over a meat-free lifestyle choice is: "What about bacon? – I couldn't live without bacon, man!"
Well, it turns out you can still dig into a BLT without the need for factory-farmed pork.
Researchers at Oregon State University have just found and patented a new strain of seaweed that is packed full of protein and tastes just like bacon once cooked.
The seaweed is a form of succulent red marine algae known as Dulse – which grows in the wild across the Pacific and Atlantic coastlines.
It has the appearance of translucent red lettuce and is said to be twice as nutritious as kale. Dulse also contains more than 15% protein when dried and is known to be an excellent source of minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants.
Initial ambitions were to use this unusual seaweed to create a super-food for edible sea snails (abalone), a popular dish in parts of Asia.
But when fellow researcher Chuck Toombs spotted this bacon-like kelp he figured it had the potential for a new industry. The vegan market alone could comprise a niche.
Europe tends to use Dulse as powder in smoothies but there is no market use in the US and there "hasn’t been a lot of interest in using it in a fresh form," lead researcher Chris Langdon said.
"But this stuff is pretty amazing. When you fry it, which I have done, it tastes like bacon, not seaweed – and it’s a pretty strong bacon flavor.”
Since making this ground-breaking revelation Toombs and Langdon have teamed up with the Food Innovation Center at OSU to develop a selection of foods with the seaweed as its main ingredient.
Several Portland-area chefs are now testing dulse as a fresh product and critics believe it has huge potential in vegan and vegetarian markets.