PUT your polished prime-time food battles to the side and let’s talk seaweed.
Inside an ordinary room at Deakin University, researchers are undertaking a groundbreaking study that challenges the logic of what we eat and why.
About 50 food pioneers ventured into the culinary unknown, putting clumps of seaweed from the deep on their forks.
Dr Alecia Bellgrove said most people didn’t spare a thought for the brown mounds of plant matter that wash up in Lady Bay, which were transformed into salads and miso soup.
“The seaweeds that we’re tasting are all brown habitat seaweeds, the sorts of things people see washed up on the beach,” Dr Bellgrove said.
“We’re trying to get an assessment of their taste preferences. The Japanese species we know are widely consumed around the world.”
Seaweed is a multi-billion-dollar industry worldwide, particularly in Japan, China and Korea, where it has been consumed for centuries.
But it was only recently that Warrnambool’s marine researchers looked to our own shores and asked: What tasted good?
“This is the first stage of potentially a bigger project before it gets anywhere close to commercialisation,” Dr Bellgrove said.
“Although we have the highest biodiversity of seaweeds globally on our shores, we don’t know much about them. If we take some out, how much is too much?
“There’s a lot of research showing that seaweeds are unique in that if you take them out, they’re not replaced by another species.” Seaweed is already farmed in parts of Asia and is more environmentally-friendly than growing salmon.
The ocean plants also absorb carbon dioxide.
Warrnambool man Ben Pohlner has found himself entangled in seaweed during plenty of morning swims but never considered the slimy strands as potentially delicious.
“It actually tastes really good. I reckon people just have to get their minds around it,” he said.
“I love innovative products and this sort of thing.”