One of the most commong questions we are asked is, ‘How do I start eating seaweed?’. Here are some useful tips and suggetions on how to easily incorporate seaweed into what you are already eating so you don’t need to re-invent the wheel when it comes to what you consume on a daily basis!
Increasing Popularity of Sea Vegetables
Seaweed continues to be a popular staple of many Asian cultures diet, but largely this ancient food source is only recently being discovered by the west. With the recent global COVID pandemic, immunity and health are topics which have come to the fore, as more people have begun to ask questions about proactive measures they can take to build immunity. There is simply no land plant which can match sea vegetables when it comes to nutrient density. The ocean has an abundance of minerals and vitamins, which seaweeds easily absorb and offer as a bioavailable food source for us. Eating seaweed not only offers richer nutrient levels but a carbon negative food source!
What is perhaps even more surprising is the array of different flavours and textures on offer through eating a variety of sea vegetables. They are commonly known as a source of umami flavour.
So, how do you easily add sea vegetables into your regular diet?
Should I Be Eating Seaweed Fresh or Dried?
Harvesting & Eating Fresh Seaweeds
Sea vegetables can be eaten fresh from the sea, in the same way we harvest vegetables from our garden. There is a popular trend to foraging for seaweed and many community groups now engage in these activities. Eating fresh is wonderful if you live near the coast and can be sure that seaweeds are being harvested from a clean area where there is no storm water run off or other polluting factors nearby. As seaweeds are very efficient at absorbing nutrients and minerals they will also efficiently absorb toxins and pollutants, so ensure the area you are harvesting is clean before you harvest fresh!
Eating Seaweed That Has Been Dried
Just like land vegetables, sea vegetables come in a wide variety of types, all with different colours, flavours, textures and nutritional benefits. Not all seaweeds grow in the same conditions and environments and many are seasonal, just as land plants are. For centuries, sea vegetables have been dried and stored, so they could be used throughout the year. Dried seaweeds retain their high nutritional value when they are washed in sea water and naturally (air) dried, just as land vegetables can be frozen after picking to keep their nutrients intact. They tend to have a slightly salty flavour – this is due in part to them being harvested from salty water but also the dense mineral content present in seaweeds which can give them a salty flavour. You may notice a fine white dust settled on a dried seaweed frond….this is in fact an amino acid called glutamine which rises to the surface of the leaf as it dries. This is also the source of the wonderful umami flavour seaweeds can impart in food.
Seaweeds will rehydrate to their original texture (just as when they are exposed to sunlight at low tide and dry out naturally) and they keep for a very long time if stored away in a dark place in a tightly-sealed dry container to stop them from being affected by humidity or moisture. If you are purchasing dried sea vegetables from a commercial source, ensure they have been tested for contaminants in accordance with the local food laws.
5 Simple Tips to Start Eating Seaweeds Everyday
Seaweeds and sea vegetables are highly versatile and can be enjoyed in many different ways. Here are some tips and ideas to get you started:
1. Use Seaweed as a Seasoning
Replace salt with seaweed! This is wonderful solution if you are on a low sodium diet. We recommend using seaweed as a salt alternative, such as kelp sea salt or seaweed salt, instead of table salt. You can simply use the kelp salt as you would regular table salt, as kelp is naturally salty but much is richer in nutrients. Sea vegetables taste salty but have less sodium and a better balance of minerals than regular table salt does.
Seaweeds are a source of umami, and they can impart a unique flavour which intensifies and balances the other tastes in a dish. Each seaweed has a different flavour – in the same way that a carrot and parsnip are both root vegetables but have different taste and textures so are Nori and dulse both red seaweeds with very different flavours and textures. We blend and make seasoning products which can be used during, before or after cooking as a garnish in a variety of ways. Try a Kelp Seasoning or Seaweed & Sesame Seasoning (which is a mixture of three different seaweeds providing a wider range of nutrients). This will add flavour to your meal and is an easy, convenient way to get started.
2. Use Seaweed When Making Stocks and Soups
Whether you make your own stock or bone broth at home or you prefer to buy one readymade, add a piece of kombu to your stock for at least 10 minutes to add extra nutrition and a savoury umami flavour. When using the kombu strip or leaf in your stock, it is best not to boil it as the flavour is subtler and more delicate, which enhances the flavours of the other ingredients. Just let the kombu steep for at least 10 minutes, which releases minerals, trace elements, vitamins, amino and fatty acids into the stock, including iodine which will turn the liquid a golden-brown colour. Some Asian cultures also eat the kombu strips themselves, rather than just using them to infuse nutrients and flavour. They are believed to offer excellent fibre, and have detoxifying properties as a prebiotic for your gut.
3. Use Seaweed Powders (kelp, spirulina, Agar) in Smoothies, Breakfast cereals or Baking/Desserts for a nutrient boost
A little goes a long way when you’re adding sea vegetables to your smoothies, breakfasts and baking – we recommend using as little as ¼ to 1 teaspoon, depending on the seaweed. Follow the usage instructions on the packaging as seaweeds, particularly kelp have concentrated levels of iodine which can cause issues for people who have sensitivities to iodine or thyroid conditions.
Simply add these sea vegetable powders to your favourite smoothie recipe, fresh juices or as a topping for your morning cereal. They are mostly mild-tasting, but you can grow your palate to include greater amounts over time.
4. Use Seaweed Leaves/Fronds as Wraps
Sea vegetables are versatile and can be used in many different ways, including making great food wraps. Using the full leaf gives you better flexibility and versatility, such as burritos, tacos, wraps and more. Seaweed leaves are also delicious for wrapping and cooking fish or vegetables. Steaming preserves moisture and nutrients, while baking gives seaweed a crispier texture. You can use kombu, sea lettuce, dulse leaves or wakame, available at Pacific Harvest.
5. Add Seaweed Flakes As a Garnish!
Add a sprinkling of savoury umami flavour on top of your favourite tips, avocado toast, salads, roast or mashed potato or sweet potato, soups, egg dishes and more. Almost any dish tastes even better with seaweed flakes, and it is a great way to boost your nutrient intake.
Getting started With Adding A little Seaweed to Your Diet Today!
To get started with seaweed, check out the range of seaweeds offered by Pacific Harvest and give our simple, top tips a go. Visit our recipe page for inspiration and share your experiments with us! We would love to see what you create.
Disclaimer: This material is provided for educational purposes only and IS NOT intended as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This information is generic and should be verified by a qualified health practitioner for specific and individual needs & requirements.