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Long Island Sound Cash Crop Makes Its Way To Manhattan Tables

NEW YORK (CBS 2) -- The latest cash crop in the farm-to-table food craze doesn't come from the land; it comes from the Long Island Sound.

In spite of what you might think, this new cash crop isn't shell-fish; it's kelp. The superfood is loaded with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, and is being served up at local restaurants.

"We're just in the tail end of harvesting season," Bren Smith told CBS 2's Maurice Dubois.

Smith claims to be the first one in the country to sell fresh kelp -- an easy to grow, highly nutritious, sea vegetable.

"It's already been pre-ordered, restaurants want it, I can't grow enough of it," he said.

Kelp farming is the 20-year-old brain child of Dr. Charlie Yarish, who recently started his first research crop in the East River.

"My colleagues in science said it's impossible to do that in the greater metropolitan area, and I said, it's not impossible," he told CBS 2's Dubois.

In addition to being a viable food source, Dr. Yarish said kelp can be used as an inexpensive bio-fuel and as a natural fertilizer. It also plays a role in cleaning local water.

"I'm a happy scientist right now. How many people think you can have a kelp farm in the East River and do some environmental good?" he asked.

Some of the kelp grown on Smith's farm has been incorporated into the curriculum at a local high school, where students cleaned and processed it before it was distributed to restaurants like Louro in Greenwich Village.

"It's been a lot of fun exploring what you can do with this product," Chef Dave Santos said. "When you taste it, it has an al dente quality."

Santos couldn't stop singing the praises of kelp.

"It's the epitome of what we talk about as chefs, love and care in the growth, and production, and ti's local," he said.

The idea of eating kelp may be familiar to fans of sushi and other Asian cuisines, but this is the first time that it has been grown locally and incorporated into mainstream menus.

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