Sea vegetables have been harvested and eaten for centuries in Asian countries, especially Japan, China, and Korea, as well as in coastal regions elsewhere, including the British Isles, the Pacific Islands, and New Zealand.
Consisting of long stems and frond like leaves, the various types of seaweed, or sea vegetables, are large forms of algae.
To me, fresh sea vegetables taste rather like greens soaked in seawater. Dried sheets or strips of seaweed are commonly sold at Japanese grocery stores and health-food stores. They have a naturally salty flavor from their high mineral content, and are sometimes crumbled or shredded and used as a seasoning rather than served as a vegetable.
Seaweed is high in fiber, beta-carotene, and vitamin C. But it’s the concentrated source of minerals, including potassium, calcium, magnesium, iron, and iodine that make seaweed such a nutritional powerhouse. The nutritional benefits of seaweeds are best when used daily in seasonings, soups, and even in your daily infusions!
Kelp: This is the largest variety of sea vegetable, growing up to 200 feet in length. It is commonly found in Asian and health food shops in dried form for use as a condiment. Kelp can be used in soups and stews, stir-fried with vegetables, or cooked with beans or grains.
Dulse: Native to the North Atlantic coasts of the United States and Europe. Dulse is dark red and chewy. It is salty and slightly spicy without being overpowering. Dulse can be soaked and eaten raw in salads, or cooked quickly and added to stir-fried veggies. You can buy it dried in shakers and use instead of salt to boost mineral intake. Or try adding a bit to your daily infusion!
Irish moss: Irish moss is a red algae and the source of carrageenan, which is used as a thickening agent in food products such as cottage cheese and salad dressing.
Kombu: Kombu is a type of kelp, which is a brown algae. The Japanese use kombu to make a flavorful broth called dashi, and to flavor other dishes. Usually sold dried, in strips, or sheets, it is dark green, almost black in color. Kombu makes a great flavor enhancer and food tenderizer. Try adding it to stews or soups. When kombu is added to the cooking water of dried beans, it helps beans cook faster, enhances the flavor, and eases digestion.
Nori: Nori is deep purple and turns dark green – almost black – when toasted. It is pressed into sheets and sold in boxes or plastic sleeves. The sheets are cut into strips for adding to recipes, and these sheets are the traditional sushi wrappers. It can also be chopped or crumbled to use in soups salads and pastas.
Wakame: Like kombu, wakame is a type of kelp. Wakame turns green after soaking. It is leafy and mild in flavor. The browner varieties have a stronger flavor. This seaweed is often added to miso soup. It is also delicious added to rice dishes and stir-fried veggies.