Sea vegetables could become important new source of nutrition

According to aquaculture experts in Florida, in the future, sea vegetables could provide a tasty source of nutrition.

The native Florida vegetables that grow in salty areas near the ocean can be cultivated in fish farms; crops like these could provide a new sustainable and environmentally friendly source of nutrition.

Megan Davis, professor of aquaculture at Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute in Fort Pierce, led a 10-week study this spring to determine the best growing conditions for sea vegetables. Plants in the study were sea asparagus, which looks similar to regular asparagus; sea purslane, harvested for the fleshy leaves on long red stems; and saltwort, a smaller frilly plant.

The plants are high in minerals, such as zinc and iodine, and vitamins, but Davis said she is awaiting a detailed nutrition analysis from the harvest.

“Obviously, a lot of people eat seaweed, but I think these sea vegetables appeal to a broader public. They have a crisp, salty taste,” Davis said.

Besides Florida, the sea vegetables are native to other coastal regions around the world. For the Harbor Branch experiment, they were grown in tanks that also raise fish, shrimp, urchins and oysters. The vegetables were grown in three different types of hydroponic media — sand, clay pebbles and only water with nutrients. Davis and other researchers used the waste from the marine life to provide nutrients, or fertilizer.


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