Canadian consumption of seaweed

Canadian consumption of seaweed

Although Canada is surrounded by naturally growing seaweed, Canadians consume only a small proportion of the harvested wild or cultivated seaweeds. Yet, in 2016, Canada imported over $11 million dollars of seaweed products mainly from Japan, Korea and China (Gov. of Canada, 2018). This shows that Canadians need to be mindful of the benefits of buying locally.  Let’s look at some seaweed resources, reasons to buy locally, and social behavioural changes to get Canadians to eat seaweeds.

Canadian Consumption of Seaweed Resources

canadian consumption of seaweed kelp
Naturally grown Kelp on Vancouver Island

Canadians harvest wild and cultivated kelp grown in some of the most pristine waters in the world. For instance, in British Columbia, two companies (Canadian Kelp and Cascadia Seaweed) cultivate kelp, and one (North Pacific Kelp) harvests wild stock. Wild stock kelp is highly prized for its quality by some Japanese since past storms destroyed their own wild stocks off the coast of Hokkaido (Krumhansl, 2016). Unfortunately, the store bought dried kelp from China, Korea and Japan are still up to four to five times cheaper than our local kelp. So why should we buy Canadian kelp?

Reasons to Buy Locally

Let’s start by looking at locally grown land vegetable models to make sense of buying locally.  In Quebec, start-ups for rooftop gardens are on the rise (“Rooftop garden projects in Montreal”, 2018).  More than eight exist already in Montreal to supply individuals, community and super markets. They meet the market demand for fresh organic produce but also cut down on the greenhouse gas emissions of fossil fuels for food transport. Furthermore, the rooftop gardens give back in air quality, take up less land than conventional farms, are sustainable, and engage the community. Likewise, locally grown seaweeds in Canada generate all of the same benefits: seaweeds sequester carbon from the atmosphere, are sustainable, don’t take up any land to grow, and engage the community. Furthermore, if Canadians would embrace seaweed in their diets as a social norm, then these benefits could exponentially increase.

Social Behavioural Change Models to increase Canadian consumption of seaweeds

Canadian consumption of seaweed nori
Naturally grown nori from Vancouver Island makes a great snack

Finally, because Canadian cuisine is an emerging cuisine, social behavioural change models such as the New Nordic Food movement (Haughan, 2018) may increase Canadian consumption of seaweeds. Through public education, public engagement meals, school programs aimed at health promotion, online tools to promote setting up events locally and internationally, the New Nordic Food movements (I and II) got people to eat seaweed. Furthermore, Canada is a young country with evolving cuisines from a melting pot of different cultures, some of which traditionally eat seaweed. If efforts provide capability (knowledge and skills to cook seaweeds), motivation (emotional desire to eat seaweed), with opportunity (markets that sell seaweed), then perhaps seaweed could be the social norm in the Canadian diet.

In summary, public efforts in environmental concerns and social behavioural changes could increase Canadian consumption of seaweed.  If I have convinced you to try eating seaweed, here is how to start.

Eight Tips to Start Eating Seaweed

  1. Soak or boil your beans with a piece of kelp. It will soften the beans, cut down on cooking and soaking time and reduce flatulence. Dry the kelp in the oven and re-purpose into seaweed powder.
  2. Dashi stock (from boiled kelp) can replace chicken broth for vegetarian dishes.
  3. Use seaweed powders to enhance taste in meat, vegetables, salad dressings, etc. without added salt.
  4. Use seaweed flakes on roasted vegetables, salads, focaccia, pasta to enhance nutrients and flavour.
  5. Put some wakame in instant noodle soups for your kids. It’s mild, easy to eat and nutrient rich.
  6. Nori has the strongest umami taste but the crispy textures in snacks and sheets for sushi are desirable. Cut it up into small slivers and sprinkle on salads, pasta, hotdogs (Jap dogs), etc.
  7. Add seaweed to smoothies for nutrients.
  8. Agar replaces pectin as a thickener for vegetarian dishes.
  9. Ground dried wrack or rockweed is a vegetarian alternative to anchovies

Reference

Haughan, H. “Introducing Seaweed as part of the New Nordic Diet”. Dept. of Product Design, Norwegian University of Science and Technology. Retrieved on 2018/04/08 from https://www.ntnu.edu/documents/139799/1270604448/TPD4505.henrikke.haugan.pdf/61fd67d4-cb3f-45a6-aeb7-e7abb6c2ea14

Krumhansl, K. A., et al. (2016). Global patterns of kelp forest change over the past half-century. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America113(48), 13785–13790. http://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1606102113

“Rooftop garden projects in Montreal”. Alternatives. Retrieved on 2018/05/03 from https://www.alternatives.ca/en/project-campaign/rooftop-gardens-project-montreal

“Seaweeds and other algae: Fit for Human Consumption—Canadian Importers Database”. Gov. of Canada. Retrieved on 2018/05/02 from https://www.ic.gc.ca/app/scr/ic/sbms/cid/productReportHS10.html?hsCode=1212210000