Agar or Agar-agar is a jelly-like substance obtained from several kinds of red seaweeds, principally Gelidium. Most of the worlds supply comes from japan, although agar is also produced in California During World War II, when the supply of agar from Japan was cut off, agar was produced in Florida, chiefly from species of Gracilaria collected in shallow bays, In California, the seaweeds are collected at low tide or by diving. They are washed, dried, bleached, then boiled to extract the gelatin. This is filtered from the pulp and allowed to cool to form a powder. Agar’s most important use is as a culture medium on which bacteria, fungi, orchid seeds, and animal tissues can be grown. The agar has a little food value itself, but nutrients such as sugars, proteins, and minerals are easily added to it. These food ingredients plus water are melted with the agar. It cools into a firm jelly with a high melting point. Thousands of pounds of agar are used each year in hospitals, laboratories, and orchid establishments. Agar is used also as a smoothing agent for ice cream, to blend cheeses, and in making photographic papers and films.
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