First Seaweed on Sioen mats harvested in Flanders

The harvest of the first Flemish seaweed farm, bred on Sioen textile is a fact. Fresh, firm, delicious is the Saccharina latissima, or sugar kelp. You haven’t heard of it yet? If it depends on the culinary world and on Sioen, this will change very soon.

Tasty and healthy

Sugar kelp is just delicious. It is also very healthy. For people and the environment. Sugar kelp (and seaweed in general) uses nutrients such as nitrate and phosphate to grow and also contains many useful proteins for humans. In addition, it is a source of vitamin C, iodine, bromine, glutamic acid, vitamin K, vitamin B12, sodium, rubidium, cobalt, calcium, boron, manganese and nickel. Sugar kelp is literally and figuratively a mouth full.

The Belgian sugar kelp has just that little bit more. It is firmer in texture and stronger in taste. Logically too. In the turbulent North Sea the plant has had to resist badly against tidal currents and often savage seas. The taste is fuller and the texture richer. Compare it to the North Sea grey shrimp, who has no equal neither.

Moreover, the sugar kelp is very suitable for kitchen enthusiasts. Donald Deschacht from the restaurant Le Homard et la Moule in Bredene proves it. With seaweed you can make delicious and easy meals such as salads, soups, rice dishes, stews, pasta, sushi and many more. Donald Deschacht sees the sea as his garden and conjures up the best dishes on the plate. Or as the chief says: "It is my mission to make the wonderful world of algae and dune herbs accessible to everyone, small or large, young or old."

Test farm in Nieuwpoort

The sugar kelp that the top chef prepares today comes from the North Sea seafarm in Nieuwpoort which is of the Value @ sea project, an initiative of the partners Sioen Industries, Colruyt, Brevisco, Lobster Fish and ILVO. The integrated sea farm, located in the Westdiep zone a few kilometers from the port of Nieuwpoort, is a demonstration project for the combined cultivation of oysters, scallops and seaweed.

The seaweed grows on technical textiles that Sioen has developed especially for the seaweed harvest. The sugar kelp is anchored to the textile and can become a few meters long. The middle part is firm and creates a nice "crunchy bite". On the sides, the seaweed is then thin and wavy in order to be able to carry along better with the flow of ebb and flow.

How it grew

In November of last year microscopically small seaweed seeds were applied to the textile substrate of Sioen. These were developed by a specialized team of textile experts and bio-engineers. The patented substrates are a piece of progressive innovation which is so specific to Sioen. It was harvested in mid-May. The garlands are ripe and strong, with a beautiful shiny reddish-brown color.

Today the chef processes the freshly harvested sugar kelp into a delicious wakame salad. But dried it also offers a lot of potential. Sugar kelp owes its name to the white layer of "icing sugar" that appears when the seaweed dries. This is the sweetener mannitol, a sugar derivative with a sweetening power of 0.7 times that of sugar from sugar beet or sugar cane. It is certainly not a synthetic sweetener, but is pure nature.

In addition, seaweeds are a new biological and sustainable raw material, a source of many essential and high-quality components for the bio-economy. They can be used as feedstock for food, animal feed, medicines and food additives, pharmaceuticals, bioplastics or other biopolymers, bio-cosmetics and in special chemicals.