Kelp (Laminaria digitata) is a large seaweed (algae), belonging to the brown algae and classified in the order Laminariales.
Despite their appearance they are not grouped with the normal aquatic or land plants (kingdom Plantae), but instead are included in either kingdom Protista or Chromista. There are about 30 different genera. Kelp grows in underwater forests (kelp forests) in clear, shallow, oceans, requiring nutrient rich water below about 20 °C, it offers a protection to some sea creatures, or food for others. It is known for its high growth rate – the genus Macrocystis grows up to 30 cm per day, to a total length of over 60 meters.
Through the 19th Century, the word “kelp” was closely associated with seaweeds that could be burned to obtain soda ash (primarily sodium carbonate). The seaweeds used included species from both the orders Laminariales and Fucales. The word “kelp” was also used directly to refer to these processed ashes.
Kelp (Laminaria digitata) is a good source of marine minerals, including potassium, magnesium, calcium and iron. It is also an excellent source of iodine. Kelp also contains vitamins and cell salts essential for good nutrition and often a better source than meat, whole milk or eggs.
Kelp is rich in iodine and alkali. Kelp can be used in soap and glass production. Until the Leblanc process was commercialized in the early 1800s, burning of kelp in Scotland was one of the principal industrial sources of soda ash (predominantly sodium carbonate). Alginate, a kelp-derived carbohydrate, is used to thicken products such as ice cream, jelly, salad dressing, and toothpaste, as well as in manufactured goods.
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