Seaweed: A Marine Superfood and Your Cool New Kitchen Staple!

Are you familiar with the many varieties and cooking applications of seaweed?

Did you know that seaweed is loaded with nutrients, and is considered the ocean’s superfood? Everything you need to know to enjoy this valuable food is right here on Foodal: https://foodal.com/knowledge/paleo/seaweed-marine-superfood/

While most folks probably associate marine algae, a.k.a. seaweed, with oceanside beaches, it’s also a nutritionally important food source!

Sure, we all know that it’s used to wrap our favorite sushi.

But it can be used for a wide range of other dishes: soup, salads, snacks, stir-fries

Kelp Caviar | Foodal.com

And there’s even kelp caviar – at a much lower price than the fishy stuff!

So, let’s have a look at some of the popular varieties available, and learn some techniques for cooking with this healthy ocean vegetable.

The Ocean’s Bounty

Many cultures around the world use seaweed for culinary applications.

Want to learn more about the thin, green, papery stuff wrapped around your sushi? Get all the info you need to know about seaweed, the ocean's great superfood! More on Foodal: https://foodal.com/knowledge/paleo/seaweed-marine-superfood/

Some are harvested in their wild form, while others are seeded and grown for a sustainable crop.

Flavors range from mild and semi-sweet to robustly saline. One variety even tastes like smoked bacon when pan-fried! More on that later.

They can be eaten fresh or steamed, or dried into flakes or a powder, both of which are easily reconstituted with a bit of liquid.

Dried, they add flavor and nutrients to seasoning blends, power-packed smoothies, salad dressings, veggie dips, fresh juices, stir-fries, soups, and stews.

Dried Flakes | Foodal.com

Many can be toasted or pan-fried for a crispy texture suitable for snacks or as a garnish, and some also make a nice spread to serve as a condiment.

And, not surprisingly, these ocean veggies are a superb accompaniment to fish, mollusks, crustaceans, and other ocean offerings.

Marine algae are also a natural choice for vegetarian and vegan diets.

Cooking methods depend on the type of ocean vegetable, and its use in a recipe.

Most of us are familiar with seaweed from enjoying sushi – but that’s just the tip of its culinary applications. Learn all about this amazing marine superfood on Foodal now: https://foodal.com/knowledge/paleo/seaweed-marine-superfood/

For example, dried varieties are a favorite for strongly flavored homemade stocks, while milder, fresh kinds are more suitable as salad ingredients, or lightly steamed as a vegetable side dish.

Varieties that are delicate in texture are best suited for gentle cooking, or consumed raw, while some thick varieties will need to be simmered for an hour or more to release the best flavor and texture.

Check your recipe before purchasing to ensure you’re cooking with the correct type.

Nutritional Riches

These marine macroalgae, large algae that can be seen without a microscope, are the ocean’s serious superfoods.

Sea Lettuce | Foodal.com

Many varieties are rich in vitamins, like A (such as carotenoids), B-complex, C, and E, all necessary to maintain your health, including eye health.

They also supply important minerals such as calcium, iodine (particularly the brown varieties), iron, magnesium, and zinc.

They are a reliable source of plant protein, fiber, and omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.

Dried Kelp in a Bamboo Steamer | Foodal.com

And they contain many unique phytochemicals not found in land-grown plants.

Numerous studies have shown promise in the abilities of marine algae to balance hormones and stabilize blood sugars. They may also have wide-ranging benefits in anti-viral and anti-inflammatory activities, as well as cardiovascular and renal health.

Foraging

From temperate to equatorial zones, seaweeds are plentiful along most of the world’s shorelines.

If you’d like to try your hand at foraging, but aren’t familiar with the species native to your region, try to go with an experienced forager, or pick up some local reference material.

Pacific Seaweeds is an excellent source to use while foraging!

Pacific Seaweeds, available on Amazon!

Always forage for marine algae in areas free of pollution, and wash your harvest thoroughly in clean, cool water before consuming.

If you’re not into foraging, check your local health food store or online specialty grocer. You can also purchase dried varieties online, as well.

Dried Kombu

Dried, Shredded Kombu, available from Food52

Whenever possible, buy varieties that have been hand-harvested – this method is much more environmentally friendly than mechanized harvesting.

Meet the Varieties

Ocean vegetables are classified as red, green, or brown algae. Here’s a sampling of the most popular and readily available varieties for nutritional and cooking purposes:

Red Algae

Nori

Nori (Pyropia yezoensis) is a popular red alga – although in its dried form, it often looks dark green or black.

Also known as laver or slake, nori grows in cold, shallow intertidal zones, with several species that grow globally.

Nori Sheets with Bamboo Sushi Mat | Foodal.com

With its mild, fresh flavor, many cultures with cold-water shorelines harvest and consume P. yezoensis, making it one of the most popular ocean vegetable for cuisine.

In Japanese cuisine, nori is used to wrap sushi, added to soup made with a fermented miso base, eaten cold as a salad, and used as a garnish for various dishes.

Toasted nori chips have also become popular as a healthy snack option with some crunch.

In Wales, laverbread is a delicacy made of pureed laver, which can be rolled with oatmeal and fried, or eaten as is on toast or crackers.

Laverbread is just one among the many kinds of ways you can use the superfood seaweed in your diets. Learn all about the most popular varieties of marine algae, and how you can make this your favorite new kitchen staple! More on Foodal: https://foodal.com/knowledge/paleo/seaweed-marine-superfood/

For sushi, nori comes in sheets approximately 7 x 8 inches in size. Traditionally, the sheets are created using a method similar to papermaking.

The alga is chopped and mixed with water to form a slurry, which is then poured onto a mat in a frame and spread thinly. Today, this process is mechanized to meet high demands.

Dulse

Dulse (Palmaria palmata) is another red alga, often referred to as red sea lettuce.

In its fresh form, dulse has a rich saline flavor that goes well in salads and sandwiches.

Dried Dulse with Bowl of Flakes | Foodal.com

Pan fried, dulse takes on a smoky flavor – it tastes and smells just like bacon!

Eat them as a crispy snack, or add to stir-fries, dips, and casseroles. It also makes a nice garnish for baked fish or grilled mollusks.

Brown Algae

Kelp/Kombu

Another cold-water ocean vegetable, kelp is a brown alga that belongs to the order Laminariales, with several genera available worldwide.

Brown Macroalgae | Foodal.com
Brown macroalgae. Photo credit: Lorna Kring

Kelp has a distinctive savory taste and is most often sold dried in thick slabs, flakes, or powder.

Kombu (Saccharina) is used in Japanese cooking as the base for dashi soup stock. Dried and flaked, add it to soups and stir-fries, dips such as hummus, or smoothies.

Here on the coast of British Columbia, fresh bull kelp (Nereocystis luetkeana) is a mainstay at clambakes. It’s added to the coals in fire pits to flavor and steam clams, mussels, crab, and oysters, and as a food wrap for potatoes and corn on the cob.

Freshly harvested, kelp also makes a delicious pickle!

Pacific Kelp | Foodal.com
Pacific kelp. Photo credit: Lorna Kring.

Because of its high levels of important minerals like iodine, kelp is also a popular nutritional supplement sold in the natural health industry.

Alaria, also known as winged kelp or wakame, is another member of the kelp family, and has a subtle, sweet flavor.

In its raw form, you can steam it like spinach. It’s also sold in a dried flake form, and is sometimes used in miso soup, rice dishes, and stir-fried with tofu.

Try it in our simple and delicious recipe for miso soup!

Another popular species in the kelp family, sea oak/arame (Eisenia bicyclis) is sold dehydrated in brown, stringy pieces that look a bit like loose-leaf tea.

Dried Wakame | Foodal.com

It quickly rehydrates and has a mild, slightly sweet flavor that makes it a versatile addition to many dishes.

Use arame as a salad topping, in stir-fries, soups, casseroles, muffins, and to flavor rice dishes.

Green Algae

Sea Lettuce

Sea lettuce (Ulva lactuca) is a green alga that can be eaten raw as a salad ingredient, or lightly steamed like spinach.

Green Sea Lettuce | Foodal.com
Green sea lettuce. Photo credit: Lorna Kring.

With a mild, salty flavor, it can also be lightly crisped in a pan with a bit of oil, and added to soups and stir-fries.

Eel Grass: Not Algae, But a Plant

Eel grass (Zostera marina) isn’t actually a marine alga, but a flowering, perennial plant.

Starfish in Eel Grass | Foodal.com

The rhizomes of eel grass can be eaten raw, or dried into cakes for storage. Its stems and the leaf bases are also eaten raw, and have a semi-sweet flavor with a crisp texture.

The fruit seeds of eel grass can be dried and ground into a powder, and used like grain flour.

Anchors Aweigh!

Adding the nutritional powerhouses of marine algae to your menu plan is a smart idea for their many health benefits.

Try them fresh as a steamed veggie or in salads. Dried, they add distinctive flavors to stir fries, seafood, and soups.

Pick up a reference book to try your hand at foraging the next time you’re at the beach!

Cold Wakame Salad | Foodal.com

The kids will love learning to identify local species, and you might be pleasantly surprised at their reaction (and yours) when you taste the sweet and savory flavors!

Or forgo the foraging, and just pick some up online or at your local health food store.

Do you foodies have any seaweed tips you’d like to share? Drop us a line in the comments below!


Don’t forget to Pin It!

Most of us are familiar with seaweed from enjoying sushi – but that’s just the tip of its culinary applications. Rich in nutrients, this marine superfood is right at home in the kitchen, as well as at the beach! Find all the details on how to use and benefit from these ocean veggies right here.

Photos by Lorna Kring, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Uncredited photos: Shutterstock.

The staff at Foodal are not medical professionals and this article should not be construed as medical advice. Foodal and Ask the Experts, LLC assume no liability for the use or misuse of the material presented above. Always consult with a medical professional before changing your diet, or using supplements or manufactured or natural medications.

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About Lorna Kring

Recently retired as a costume specialist in the TV and film industry, Lorna now enjoys blogging on contemporary lifestyle themes. A bit daft about the garden, she’s particularly obsessed with organic tomatoes and herbs, and delights in breaking bread with family and friends.

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