Kelp Waits to Take Its Place in America’s Stomachs

The leaves resemble brown lasagna noodles when they wash ashore on coasts around the world. Like many other seaweeds, sugar kelp has all sorts of uses. The leaves of Saccharina latissima provide a sweetener, mannitol, as well as thickening and gelling agents that are added to food, textiles and cosmetics.

But some believe its most important potential is largely untapped: as an addition to the American diet.

Seaweed is widely cultivated and consumed in Asia. However, in North America, where it sometimes is rebranded as a “sea vegetable,” it is cultivated rarely and eaten infrequently. To proponents, this is the unfortunate oversight, considering it is a crop that can clean the water in which it grows, needs no arable land, and provide a nutritious food with traditional roots.