If you’re planning to make blancmange—a traditional milk pudding thickened with Irish moss seaweed—don’t forget a splash of brandy, says Dr. Charles Yarish, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Connecticut (UConn). “The French always add a little brandy.”
Dr. Yarish is also a fan of Gracilaria or “ogonori,” a hairy sea vegetable that he farms in Connecticut’s coastal waters. He grows the native species, Gracilaria tikvahiae, though there is also a non-native Gracilaria that’s made its home on the U.S. east coast in recent years. Both species are edible, but the only way to tell them apart is a DNA fingerprint.
Seaweed for Healthy Waters
Yarish is a lover of seaweeds, not only for the dinner plate, but for the role they play in coastal ecosystems. His research dates back to the 1980’s and involves growing various species in his lab and at field sites off the coast.
One site is at the confluence of the Bronx and East Rivers in New York City, where his kelp farm helps to remove nitrogen and other excess nutrients caused by agricultural run-off, over-fertilized lawns, and even air pollution. A certain amount of nutrients in the water is a good thing, but too much can tip the balance, upsetting coastal ecosystems and causing die-offs of plants and animals, or unwelcome algal blooms like “red tide,” which render shellfish toxic for human consumption. “If we can use aquaculture systems to manage these nutrients, this is an exciting breakthrough,” Yarish said. “And we’ve shown we can do that.” Read the rest of this entry