A NEW LEAF: Seaweed could be a miracle food—if we can figure out how to make it taste good.
Seaweed, which requires neither fresh water nor fertilizer, is one of the world’s most sustainable and nutritious crops. It absorbs dissolved nitrogen, phosphorous, and carbon dioxide directly from the sea—its footprint is negative—and proliferates at a terrific rate. Smith’s kelp can grow as much as three-quarters of an inch a day, maturing from pinhead to ten-foot plant in the course of a winter, between hurricane seasons. It is resilient, built to take a lashing, but if a storm wipes out the crop he can just start over. Every year, he harvests between thirty and sixty tons of it, about the same per-acre yield as a potato farmer. Plentiful, healthy, and virtuous, kelp is the culinary equivalent of an electric car. “You’re not just gaining nutrition, you’re also gaining absolution from guilt,” Mark Bomford, the director of the Yale Sustainable Food Program, says. “This is your get-out-of-anxiety-free card.”