Foodie Friday - Seaweed

.. and why would anyone want to eat this stuff?

Having tangled with a macrobiotic diet for a few years, I learned more than I ever thought I'd want to about the healthy benefits of eating seaweed, or the more euphemistically named, sea veggies. I can now look at that pesky stuff that gets tangled around our legs during a swim at the beach as potential mid-day snack food (a tired joke that my kids would rather I stopped repeating).

I have also learned that are huge variances in taste, texture and recipe potential in even just a handful of species..not to mention the high mineral content that one small serving contains. From the mild-flavored nori that is commonly found wrapped around sushi rolls, to the heavier 'oh-my-god-this-tastes-like-ocean!' flavored hijiki... even the most squeamish of palettes can find some way to work this highly-nutritious food into their diets.

From the book, "Macrobiotic Home Remedies"

Edible sea vegetables are a rich source of minerals (calcium, phosphorous, magnesium, iron, iodine, sodium), vitamins A, B1, B12, C, and of proteins and easily digestible carbohydrates.

Thanks to their mineral content, sea vegetables purify our body by eliminating the acidic effects of modern foods, and they help establish an alkaline blood quality. Therefore they can be used to prevent or improve a large variety of modern diseases: high blood pressure, arteriosclerosis, allergies, arthritis, rheumatism, nervous disorders, etc. Sea vegetables also help to dissolve fat and mucus deposits caused by excessive consumption of meats, dairy foods and sugars.

There are cases of patients in Japanese hospitals that were fed miso soup with seaweed, a combination believed to have been effective against radiation poisoning after the bombs fell in Nagasaki and Hiroshima, compared with those who were not given soup and showed a higher incidence of cancer. And along those same lines, miso soup has been recommended for deterring the effects of radiation treatment for cancer patients. 

Some of the more easily procured varieties are as follows:

  • Kombu Comes packaged in thick hard strips and must be soaked before using. Not all that tasty as is, and kinda slimy after soaking, it is best used to cook with beans or use in broth such as kombu dashi. Traditionally used to make the hair darker, and also thought to increase longevity, intelligence, clear thinking, sexual vitality and strength.
  • Wakame Also should be soaked, but is more feathery and light  and palatable than kombu. You may have encountered this veggie floating in your miso soup ordered in a Japanese restaurant. Can also be used to reduce high blood pressure and in general for heart disorders.
  • Arame Dark and stringy like hair... a bit more strongly flavored, but good if sauteed with other strong flavors.
  • Hijiki Similar to arame, and the highest in calcium of all the edible seaweeds. However, I find it the hardest one to get down.
  • Nori Usually packaged in squarish sheets that may or may not come pre-toasted (toasting makes it easier to eat) Can be eaten as is, crumbled into anything or wrapped around rice. I find many cats like it too.
  • Dulse Light and comparatively 'sweet'... dulse makes a great snack right out of the bag, tossed on salad, or layered in sandwiches.
  • Kanten This one is a little different in that it is used as a thickener, kind of like vegan gelatin. Has no nutritional value but is said to be very effective in relieving "yang" constipation.

There are many recipes including the use of seaweed online or in cookbooks.. a few I would recommend are: