NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Move over kale! A seaweed farm could be coming our way soon.
The versatility of kelp is suddenly catching the eyes of fishermen and restaurant chefs alike, and now Long Island's east end is part of a pilot program to grow more of it.
As CBS2's Jennifer McLogan reports, the crop cultivated from Peconic Bay has the potential to give the local shellfish some greener competition. Kelp is a potential money maker with an intriguing bounty of benefits.
But kelp isn't just any seaweed. It's already being touted as a tastebud treat from Asia all the way to the British isles. In addition, studies at Stony Brook University's marine sciences laboratories show kelp works as a sponge to clean our waters suffocating in nitrogen, phosphorous, and carbon.
"It's a win win," professor Christopher Gobler tells CBS2. "We can remove nitrogen and phosphorous from the ecosystem and then it can be harvested as a crop and sold for food consumption."
Culinary students have helped clean and process kelp as it slowly makes its impression on local kitchens.
Chef Dave Santos of Louro Restaurant has been experimenting with kelp dishes to introduce to his customers.
"It's been a lot of fun exploring what you can do with this product," he said.
It can be used in salads, soups, or even pasta-like dishes.
"The kelp goes in at the end because it doesn't need a lot of cooking," Santos said. "When you taste it, it has the al dente quality."
Some fishermen in Peconic and Gardiners Bay are already vying to become approved seaweed farmers. Kelp must be developed and grown in certified approved clean shellfishing waters.
The seafaring crop's popularity has caught the eye of Suffolk County, which has just approved a carefully regulated kelp harvesting pilot program.
"We can clean the water and increase jobs," county legislator Kara Hahn tells CBS2.
Legislator Al Krupski says the whole point of the pilot is to see whether or not the crop can grow to commercial levels.
Helping to make kelp the kale of the sea, it's possible local seaweed farmers could produce a crop worth millions of dollars a year.
CBS2 reports that in addition to food and water purification, kelp could be used as an inexpensive biofuel and natural fertilizer.
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