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OSU helps create superfood

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PHOTO BY STEPHEN WARD, COURTESY OF OSU EXTENSION AND EXPERIMENT STATION - Dulse looks like a red lettuce but is very high in protein. Could dulse be the next kale?

Scientists and food innovators in Oregon have brought to market the nation's first commercially available product using dulse — a nutrient-rich sea vegetable grown at the Oregon State University Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport.

It's called Tamari with Dulse Seaweed Dressing & Marinade, and contains a strain of dulse that's farmed by continuously cycling fresh Pacific Ocean water through specially designed tanks at the marine science center.

“Dulse is sustainable and nutritious, and its cultivation has the potential to revitalize coastal food economies," says Chris Tjersland, brand development manager at New Seasons Market, which launched the product this month in its Portland and Vancouver, Wash. stores. "Using Oregon seawater gives it a higher level of nutrients that feed the dulse."

New Seasons partnered with OSU and Dulse Foods to bring the product to market; it's been in development at the marine science lab for the past 15 years.

PHOTO BY STEPHEN WARD, COURTESY OF OSU EXTENSION AND EXPERIMENT STATION - A dulse salad dressing created in Oregon is now being sold at New Seasons. To make the dressing user-friendly and accessible to all, the OSU Food Innovation Center in Portland tested several versions and came up with a final recipe that highlights the dulse's briny qualities with a GMO-free olive oil, and tamari rather than soy sauce, to make it gluten-free and boost its umami flavor.

Dulse, which looks like translucent red lettuce, is 16 percent protein by dry weight and rich in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.

Innovators say it has a lot of potential as a product enhancer for chips, ice cream, trail mix and even beer.

Food research scientist Jason Ball came to the innovation center from Norway to help develop the product, bringing his expertise in incorporating seaweed into the national cuisine.

"It has a lot of similar benefits as kale," Tjersland says. "It can almost be deemed a superfood."

The dressing, at $4.99 per bottle, is offered under New Seasons’ Partner Label brand, which currently includes about 250 brands.

This is hardly the discovery of dulse. It's harvested in the North Atlantic Ocean as well, and has been used as a food in Northern Europe for centuries.

A harvested variety is sold in U.S. health food and nutrition stores, which is different from the OSU-patented variety.

Until now there have been no commercial operations that grow dulse for food in the U.S.

Always a pioneer, Portland chef Vitaley Paley is already using it as a fresh ingredient on his menus.

Who knows? Maybe the next salad or smoothie or beer you order will be dulse-infused.

"We're going to gauge how people react to it," Tjersland says. "If it's something people grasp onto, we want to meet the demand. We want to try it into snack food, spices, seasonings."

@jenmomanderson