By Mary Morgan
I recently had the good fortune to talk with four amazing women — all in professions that can shape the future of seafood. We met on Zoom — calling in from Portland, Maine, Brooklyn, Southold and Amagansett — on a panel I was co-moderating with my colleague Diane Shapiro of Drawdown East End. We talked about the climate-solution benefits of regenerative small scale oyster and kelp farming and, yes, we shared some favorite kelp recipes.
Dazzling with Kelp
Kelp, with its tremendous carbon-sequestering capabilities and high nutrition value, is a rising star of a new sustainability-aware “climate cuisine.” But kelp as a dessert? Chef Victoria Blarney dazzled us by describing her creations as chef-in-residence at Fulgurances, a showcase for new talent that started as a pop-up in Paris and has now crossed the Atlantic to Brooklyn. She recently joined Dan Barber at Blue Hill, where he promotes chefs he admires making “structural changes which our food system so desperately needs.” Chefs, Victoria told us, “have to change what we do with food waste, we have that power in our hands.”
Growing up in Chile, where “seaweed was part of the landscape” Chef Victoria told us of a seaweed dish with cilantro, onions and olive oil. Like our East End clambake, in Chile fish is cooked over “seaweed charcoal” a technique called rescoldo or charring with live embers. And what about that dessert kelp? “I challenged myself,” said Chef, “on what I could do with kelp.” Her chocolate creation (sustainable from Columbia) includes kelp dulce and a ganache of Irish moss with dried kelp, all from Maine. It’s “brown tones with hazelnut, hidden under a cloud of milk.” Follow Chef’s creations at #Fulgurances.
Advancing a Blue-Green Economy
You can’t talk about farming kelp without talking about oyster farming. Both are Drawdown Solutions and part of advancing a blue-green economy, which I define as an economy based on renewable energy and renewing nature — no waste, no pollution — based on businesses that regenerate natural resources, boosting the health of our environment, economy and community.
Elizabeth Peeples, founder of Little Ram Oyster in Southold, left a two-decade career in NYC to pursue shellfish farming. Why? Her love of locally-sourced seasonal foods and the idea of getting involved in “restorative aquaculture” led her to seek out an East End oyster farm business for sale. Elizabeth told us how rewarding it was to be part of reinvigorating an historic industry and “adding a net positive value to our waters.” Her oyster farm is a “mini ecosystem,” attracting finfish, and fishing baymen.
In Albany, ready for signature by the governor is the “kelp bill” to legalize commercial kelp farming in, allowing oyster farmers a winter crop. (Read more on local kelp efforts in our cover story).
“The opportunity for us as farmers to grow yet another regenerative product is pretty amazing” said Elizabeth. With nearly 50 similar small-scale operations in the Peconic Bays, each oyster filtering 50 gallons a day, their cumulative impact is a valuable protector of our local waters, now at risk from the looming warming-waters crisis heading our way. Find #LittleRamOysters retail at a farmstand on Soundview Avenue and at Terre Vite Winery in Jamesport.
Students for Kelp
Oriana Durand, the graduate student on the panel, called in from Amagansett. At NYU, her focus is food systems, and over the summer she is co-leading a group called Eat More Kelp, with a mission to showcase regeneratively farmed products, like kelp. At Eat More Kelp she wants to open up a dialogue on climate cuisine.
“You can’t really have a conversation about a sustainable food system without talking about food sovereignty, food justice, food access and wages,” a systems approach she is passionate about. Oriana plans to showcase chefs’ kelp recipes and ingredient sources, sharing them with her NYU network — and all of us — on the website eatmorekelp.com and #EatMoreKelp. Stay tuned!
Summer Eat More Kelp Burger Challenge
The “kelp burger” is a unique creation of AKUA in Maine, co-founded by entrepreneur and environmentalist Courtney Boyd Myers when she realized “you can create food that is healthy for the planet and healthy for you too.”
Known for their kelp jerky, AKUA hit hard times during the pandemic, so “we pivoted hard, almost ran out of money” and used the moment to create something “really delicious — because in the end the consumer cares about taste, then they care about health and then they care about sustainability.”
With no money for product development, CBM said “thankfully everyone’s mom” took samples, tested the burger and offered feedback.
“The salty-smokey kelp burger,” Bon Appetit’s description, is now the star of a summer AKUA and Eat More Kelp challenge. Anyone can join, chefs and general public alike. Simply, CBM told us, “when you’re eating kelp burgers this summer, share on social media with the hashtag #EatMoreKelpBurgers.”
Former Locavore, now a Climatarian, sailor, beachcomber Mary Morgan lives in Orient with her husband Tom, naturalist and mushroom forager, early founders of the East End chapter of Slow Food in 2004. Two years ago Mary co-founded a grassroots effort, Drawdown East End, to inspire local solutions to reverse global warming. DrawdownEastEnd.org. Climate Local Now is a partnership between the East End Beacon and Drawdown East End.