In the first scene of “The Wounded”, Star Trek: The Next Generations, the newlyweds Miles and Keiko O’Brien are having breakfast together. Keiko explains to Miles, the dish they are eating consists of Kelp buds, plankton loaf and sea berries. Miles, clearly disgusted, quips, he’s not a fish.
Actually, this dish peaked my interest. Being a solitary bachelor, I eat alot of processed food. But far from leading to my enjoying it, this actually has led me to, if anything, be more drawn to healthier fare.
Does anyone know (1) if this is real food (I had to ask, it might be fictional you know) and (2) where do you get it? I live in Michigan, BTW.
I’ve never heard of “kelp buds” in real life, but kelp certainly is edible. I’m not sure if anyone eats plankton directly, though plenty of edible fish eat it. As noted, “sea berry” is a land-based bush.
Of course, on Star Trek all of the listed items could be from alien worlds.
Kon-Tiki: Across the Pacific by Raft, by Thor Heyerdahl, is a chronicle of Heyerdahl’s attempt to show that Polynesia could have been populated by South Americans traveling westward in balsa rafts. His theory was later shown to be incorrect, but he did demonstrate that such a migration was possible.
During the expedition several experiments were carried out. For example, the RAF supplied rations. One member of the expedition would eat only those, while the others would eat the traditional foods South Americans would have eaten. The purpose was to test how well a person would fare on the rations for an extended period. (I don’t recall which was the better diet, but IIRC nobody became ill.) Another experiment was to see if water supplies could be extended by mixing sea water with it. (IIRC water was potable with up to 1/3 sea water.) Another experiment was to see if plankton could be gathered in sufficient quantities to be a viable food source.
A long mesh ‘stocking’ was fitted to a hoop and towed behind the raft. Remarkable quantities of plankton were gathered in a short period and was eaten directly. It was found to be nutritious, and also tasty. The flavour varied depending on the mix of plankton that was caught. Plankton includes small plants and animals in addition to single-cell organisms. It’s been a while since I’ve read the book (or since I’ve seen the film), but ISTR that catches that included significant numbers of jellyfish tasted ‘tart’, and catches that contained numbers of something else tasted like oysters. Some catches were more delicious than others.
So plankton can be harvested in sufficient quantities for human consumption, and it’s edible as-is. Could it be harvested in commercial quantities? I don’t know. I’d say there’s enough of it that harvesting enough for a specialty market would not adversely impact the ecosystem. It’s possible there are times when it mightn’t be edible, just as there are times when shellfish aren’t; but I don’t know.