Close your eyes and think about kelp. What’s the first thing that comes to mind? Maybe it’s a tray of fresh sushi, a too-bright green bowl of seaweed salad from your local Asian restaurant, or an episode of SpongeBob. (OK, maybe that one’s just me.) But seaweed’s global market value has been increasing dramatically, and Atlantic Sea Farms CEO Briana Warner wants to challenge Americans’ preconceptions about eating kelp.
When she took over the Maine-based company in 2018, Warner had a clear goal. “We shifted our mission to be focused around working with lobster fishermen to diversify their income—both to adapt to and mitigate some of the effects of climate change,” she says. Scientists have discovered that the Gulf of Maine is warming faster than 99 percent of oceans worldwide, placing the future of its lobster population and dependent fishermen in doubt. With kelp, Warner saw an opportunity: By providing local lobstermen with free kelp seed (Atlantic Sea Farms guarantees it will buy all the kelp), not only would the local economy improve, but so would the waters. Planting seaweed actually reduces carbon and nitrogen levels in the oceans, offering a safer environment for wildlife.
So it helps local communities and fights climate change. What else can kelp do? “It’s also one of the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet,” Warner says. “It’s got more calcium per ounce than milk. It’s got a ton of potassium. And it’s one of the only ways to get natural iodine in your diet.” It’s also rich in antioxidants, probiotics, and omega-3s, making it practically a multivitamin. While the “never-dyed, never-dried” kelp is packaged for the freezer section at specialty markets, Atlantic Sea Farms also incorporates it into three fermented products that pair beautifully with cheese and other dairy foods.
Sea-Beet Kraut + blue cheese
“This is a great beet kraut that just happens to have seaweed—which gives it that umami flavor—but if you didn’t know it was seaweed, you wouldn’t necessarily,” Warner says. “It’s fantastic with any type of blue cheese or in a Reuben. Just delicious.”
Sea-Chi + cheddar and parmesan grilled cheese
“Our raw seaweed-based kimchi has a really bold flavor, but it’s not spicy,” Warner says. “It goes really well with some cheddar or parmesan in a grilled cheese.”
Fermented Seaweed Salad + savory butter
“This product is the answer to that bright green seaweed salad that we see everywhere—but this time without all the junk in it,” Warner says. “I make a kelp butter with it that has orange peel, salt, and a little bit of red cayenne pepper. And you can add that to anything.”