Why seaweed is sometimes used in the making of ice cream

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Seaweed didn’t exactly come into play during those “make your own ice cream” science experiments you probably did in elementary school, but it is sometimes used in the making of commercial ice cream. No, it isn’t just in seaweed-flavoured ice cream, either. Seaweed is actually used as a type of thickening agent for ice cream.

Technically, the substance usually used to thicken the ice cream is called “agar” or “agar-agar.” The name comes from the Japanese word for “red algae.” It was discovered in 1658 by Minora Tarazaemon, a Japanese innkeeper who supposedly left extra seaweed soup outside overnight. It was winter, and the substance froze. Tarazaemon noticed in the morning that it had turned into a sort of gel when it thawed again.

Whether that’s exactly how Tarazaemon discovered it or not, it was later found that after first boiling seaweed, repeated thawing and freezing makes a pure, gelatinous substance perfect to use as a thickening agent. It’s likely that the process was picked up by the Dutch in the 17th century and later spread to other East Indies ports. READ MORE…

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