THE UNDERRATED SEAWEED
This article is written for those not too familiar with “goso”, a variety of seaweed that either grows wild under the sea or cultured (farmed).
“Goso” is the local term we use to name a seaweed belonging to a genus of tropical sea water plant called eucheuma that can grow in different colors. Some can be either brown or green.
“Goso” is the variety of seaweeds we see being sold in the market, by which manner of preparing it, mainly for food, is having it pickled with vinegar, after blanching it for a very short time. Slices of fresh tomato, spring onions and, perhaps, some crushed ginger may be added and mixed to your taste.
What we see in the market are either the variety belonging to the eucheuma cottonii or the eucheuma spinosum. You can distinguish one from the other through the surface appearance of its branches. The former has smooth, rounded surfaces while the latter exhibits thorny or spiky surfaces.
What are being sold in the market mostly come from the farms.
This article will not be discussing the manner these variety of seaweeds are grown and in what under sea water habitat it prefers to grow.
Neither shall this article be talking, for better understanding, about the chemical and technical aspects of production resulting to certain characteristics of its final hydrocolloid product called carrageenan.
For the information of those unfamiliar, hydrocolloid is a substance that forms gel with water.
What this article simply wants to do is make people aware about the versatility and the countless uses/applications of eucheuma’s extracted end-product called carrageenan.
Needless to say that it is not in consuming the seaweed, raw, that earns money for the farmers and taxes for government.
It is in exporting the seaweed, either as dried raw material, semi-refined and refined carrageenan that helps sustain the economy of this country.
The profitability of eucheuma farming and carrageenan processing are solid measures of a product’s significant contribution to the national wealth.
The eucheuma variety of seaweed, therefore, that the Philippines grow in abundance should not be underrated nor underestimated.
Carrageenan is one of the world’s foremost food and industrial additives today.
For better appreciation, some over view of current carrageenan applications are listed below:
Beer/Wine/Vinegar – accelerates and improves clarity
Chocolate milk drink – stabilizes and improves viscosity
Ice cream – prevents ice crystal formation
– enhances excellent mouthfeel
Flans/dessert gel – enhances flavor release and excellent mouthfeel
Sauces and dressings – thickens and improves viscosity
Beef patty – substitute fat, retains moisture and increase
Luncheon meat – prevents fat separation
– serves as meat extender
Poultry and ham – enhances juiciness and increase yield
Canned petfood (meat and fish) – gelling and stabilizing agent
Toothpaste – stabilizer
Air freshener – gelling agent
To name a few, carrageenan is also being used now in personal care and pharmaceutical products, the likes of drug delivery systems, wound dressings, cosmetics, hand lotion and shampoos.
It is even used as an additive in contraceptive gels.
Farming techniques and carrageenan production are no trade secrets anymore.
But, we are losing our grounds against Indonesia as the main seaweed producer and raw seaweed exporter because of quality problems.
Government must step in and save a very viable industry.
For a country that pioneered the farming and processing of seaweeds, we have plenty to loss.