Sea vegetables are a true nutritional treasure chest that is little known to the Western diet and cuisine. Thanks to a cross-cultural culinary exchange with Japan, sea vegetables, or seaweed, have made their way into the American kitchen.
Because ocean water itself contains such a high supply and variety of minerals, all sea vegetables contain the broadest range of minerals available in food form on the planet today. Sea vegetables are an excellent source of iodine, vitamin K, folic acid and magnesium. It’s important to use only high quality sea vegetables from reputable brands to ensure that the plants were harvested fresh and were not sprayed with any chemical preservative in the drying process.
There are many different varieties of sea vegetables, each with their own different flavors, preparation styles and nutritional benefits. Even for those not wanting to eat a whole seaweed salad, kelp flakes can be used as a nutritious salt alternative.
Kombu: The most popular edible variety of kelp, kombu is usually added to rice, beans and soup stock for rich, savory flavor. When kombu is cooked with beans, it makes them easier to digest and enhances their nutritive value.
Dulse: These reddish featherlight flakes are great sprinkled on salads, steamed veggies, rice or just about any other savory food. Dulse is a high-fiber snack food in many cultures.
Agar Agar: These flavorless flakes are used as a thickening agent. Unlike gelatin, which is animal-based, agar agar is vegan.
Nori: This is what your sushi is wrapped in! Use nori to make veggie wraps with sprouts, avocados and tomatoes.
Arame: The mildest flavored sea vegetable, arame is high in iron and is great sautéed, steamed or in salads.
Hijiki: One of the most mineral rich plants in the world, hijiki has 14 times more calcium than cow’s milk!
Wakame: The most tender of the sea vegetables, wakame is usually soaked for about 10 minutes and then added to soups and salads for enhanced flavor and minerals.
Want more? Try Bonnie’s delicious and purifying sea veggie broth.
Images (clockwise from top left): Kombu, Dulse, Nori, Arame: digiyesica, Hijiki: Cloganese, Wakame
Note: Agar agar not pictured.