Plankton Soup

Do you have a personal microscope at home? If not, feel free to purchase one, borrow from a friend, or break into your local university’s biology building so you can follow along with this great recipe that has been a hit classic for millions of years. Individual results may vary.

First, head into your local inlet with a plankton net of mesh size 350 microns or smaller. We chose Grappler Inlet on Vancouver Island near the Bamfield Marine Science Station, but any inlet will do. Tow the net in a circle for at least 5 minutes, and be sure to wave to other boaters as they watch you circle the same spot for 5 minutes (invite them over for soup later if you don’t want to come off as a crazy person, oops… too late). Rinse the net carefully and collect your spoils in a container to bring back to your microscope.

Once you have returned to the microscope, use an official “turkey baster of science” to remove a small amount of water from your collection container and place it in a dish. If you don’t own an official baster, a regular one will work just fine. Place the dish under the microscope, and begin sorting through the ingredients. Pictures are included for easy identification.

Crab Zoea: These small creatures are the first stages of crab growth, and arguably some of the cutest plankton. Some have long spines jutting out of the front and back of their head to make them harder to swallow, so I tend to leave this variety out of my soup.

Diatoms: Disks made of glass that photosynthesize like a land plant. They are part of the phytoplankton, and although they will not be fun for you to eat, they are a preservative for your soup. Most of your ingredients, the zooplankton, eat phytoplankton, which will keep your soup fresh for a few extra days.

Comb Jellies: Under the right lighting, rows of tiny hairs beat in synchrony to produce wild rainbows of color. This is my personal favorite ingredient, feel free to add a few extra for good measure.

Chaetognaths: Pronounced “kee-tug-nath”, also known as an Arrow Worm. Although they look soft, they are voracious predators with hooked spines for grasping prey. Will add a nice noodle-like texture to your dish.

Copepods: These are the most abundant zooplankton, with a wide variety of shapes and sizes. Use this ingredient to personalize your dish.

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Add ingredients in proportions of your choosing. Cook for 15 minutes at 350˚F and probably don’t eat it.

I hope you have enjoyed this recipe as much as I have over the years. If you would like to learn more about the wild diversity that makes up the ocean’s plankton, I would recommend this TedEd Talk.

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