Jul 21, 2013
05:56 AMConnecticut Today
Connecticut's Latest Culinary Crop: Kelp for Martinis, 'Pasta', Ice Cream ...
Peter Hvizdak-New Haven Register
Charles Yarish, a world expert in aquaculture cultivated seaweed, sits in a seaweed nursery lab with a summer crop of the red seaweed Gracilaria at the Ecology Evolutionary Biology and Marine Sciences department at the University of Connecticut Stamford, Connecticut Branch Wednesday July 10, 2013. Yarish has been involved in research on ways to grow kelp and other seaweed as commercially available sea vegetable crops.
Just a few months ago, there was no Long Island Sound seaweed industry at all.
Now, sugar kelp produced through decades of research at the University of Connecticut in Stamford, under the direction of one of the world’s authorities on seaweed, and grown in the Thimble Islands by former shellfisherman Bren Smith of Guilford is being served in cutting-edge restaurants in New York City.
Kelp butter, kelp ice cream and kelp “pasta” all have turned up in recent months on menus at Manhattan restaurants and supper clubs aimed at “really high-end foodies,” according to Smith and some of the people experimenting with it as an ingredient.
Smith's kelp, grown in the late fall, winter and spring in an offshore area leased from the town of Branford, also is being experimented with as a flavoring in a savory “shrub” that a Manhattan spirits company uses to make trendy, kelp martinis and other premium cocktails.
Some of Smith’s kelp also is being used as fertilizer for the Yale Sustainable Food Project’s organic farm in New Haven — even as a Shelton-based spin-off of research at UConn-Stamford works to bring an organic Long Island Sound seaweed-based fertilizer to market.
Meanwhile, a different, seaweed, gracilaria, that UConn-Stamford professor Charles Yarish and his colleagues are test-growing, is being eyed as a summer crop.
They’re growing it in the Sound and in tanks in Bridgeport’s Black Rock section with the help of students and staff at the Bridgeport Regional Aquaculture Science and Technology Education Center, part of the city public school system.
The new industry, fueled by the internationally recognized research of Yarish and his colleagues at UConn-Stamford, including professors Jang Kim, Tim Dowding and others, may well be the future for Connecticut aquaculture.