In my post on food and drink trends for 2016 which I published at the beginning of the year I included seaweed as one of the ‘in foods’ – with Baum + Whiteman specifically suggesting adding it to popcorn. I’m not wholly convinced by that, but I love seaweed wrapped around sushi, or cut into rice.
I’m very grateful to Kristell Darchy for agreeing to contribute this month’s expert post, writing on seaweed. Kristell runs a specialist French food company, Truly French, importing Breton products, in particular sea salt and teas which include seaweed, the black gold of Brittany.
Seaweeds are one of nature’s true wonder foods! They are one of the most nutritionally dense plants on the planet and also the most abundant source of minerals in the plant kingdom having, as they do, access to all the nutrients in the ocean. Many people consider seaweed to be used mostly in Japanese cooking but, for centuries a typical Welsh miner’s breakfast would have been eggs, bacon, cockles and laverbread – a sort of black paste made out of laver seaweed.
Seaweed goes well in pasta, soups, salads, stews and, obviously in sushi. Mixed with butter it is good with fish.
Because seaweed is a superfood, a little goes a long way!
Benefits of seaweeds:
- Blood purifying: the chemical composition of seaweeds is so close to human blood plasma, that they are excellent at regulating and purifying our blood.
- High in calcium: they can contain up to ten times more calcium than milk and eight times as much as beef.
- Alkalizing: they help to alkalize our blood, neutralising the over-acidic effects of our modern diet.
- Have powerful chelating properties (its molecules can form bonds to metal ions): They offer protection against a wide array of environmental toxins, including heavy metals, pollutants and radiation by-products, by converting them to harmless salts that the body can eliminate easily.
- Contain anti-oxidants: seaweeds contain lignans (naturally occurring chemical compounds) which have anti cancer properties.
- Detoxifying: they are rich in chlorophyll (the pigment that makes some seaweeds green) which is a powerful, natural detoxifier that helps to draw out waste products.
- Boost weight loss: seaweeds play a role in boosting weight loss and deterring cellulite build-up. Their naturally high concentration of iodine, helps to stimulate the thyroid gland, which is responsible for maintaining a healthy metabolism. At the same time, the minerals in seaweed act like electrolytes to break the chemical bonds that seal the fat cells, allowing trapped wastes to escape.
- For much more on the health benefits of seaweed, follow this link to a BBC assessment.
Seaweeds That You Can Enjoy Everyday
Nori is best known as the seaweed used to make sushi rolls, and it’s also used in furikake. You can make your own at home, but make sure you use the untoasted nori sheets for maximum nutrient content.
Kelp, also known as brown algae, is the most common seaweed found along the ocean shores. Due to its thick leaves it is perfect for a hot seaweed bath. Thick seaweeds like kelp and tangle are best in stews or deep fried and eaten like crisps. For more on seaweed in the USA and a good recipe for fettuccine with mushrooms and spring onions, follow this link.
It is also available in supplement form.
Dulse is a red seaweed and can be bought either whole or as flakes. Can be eaten raw (fresh or dried and rehydrated). Dulse sold as flakes does not need to be soaked and can be added straight to any meal – it’s good in stir fries. Whole dulse is better soaked, drained of water, and sliced before adding to your dish. It is great to use as seasoning on salads, vegetables and soups.
Arame is a ‘black’ stringy looking seaweed. It needs to be soaked for a few minutes before it is added to cooking, where it will double in size. It can be added to any grain dishes, stir fries, soups, salads and curries.
A deep green seaweed, wakame is sold fresh or dehydrated. It tastes best when hydrated in water for a few minutes before being used.
Sprinkle in soups, stocks, stews, stir fries or savoury dishes.
Used in Japan for centuries as a mineral rich flavour enhancer. Add a strip of kombu when cooking beans to make them more digestible and to reduce gas. Add a strip of kombu to your sprouts when soaking them to allow them to soak up the minerals.
When sourcing or buying seaweed, choose certified organic brands where possible. Seaweeds will absorb the properties of the water in which they are grown, so you want to ensure that they have been grown and harvested in unpolluted waters that are pure, and free from harmful chemicals.
The seaweeds used in my products are from Brittany – known to be particularly good waters for seaweeds because the sea there is very high in minerals.
- For an interesting article on harvesting seaweed in Brittany, follow this link
- You can purchase seaweed online from Just Seaweed
- You can purchase laverbread online from Bodnants
- For recipes and other ideas for how to cook with seaweed, buy Nathan Isaac’s Seaweed Cookbook; Cooking with Seaweed by Marcus Harrison, or The New Seaweed Cookbook by Cristal June Maderia