What is Sea Chicory?
Sea Chicory (Chondracanthus chamissoi) is a red algae or sea vegetable endemic to the Peruvian or Chilean coast. It is fondly referred to by Peruvians as ‘Cocha Yuyos’, Chileans as ‘Chicorea de mar’, and Japanese as ‘Yanaginori’.
Dry, Sea Chicory can resemble wire wool one would use to clean pots in the kitchen with, but when moistened it expands and unfolds into a stunning, delicate filigree-like sea vegetable which is popular with chefs as an edible garnish. It comes in a deep crimson colour and forest green colour. Both have the same nutritional profile. The shape and size of Sea Chicory can also vary depending on where it has been harvested from – this is a wild harvested product so can have some variability.
In more recent times, Sea Chicory has been harvested commercially as raw material for the extraction of its jellifying compounds used in food processing. There is controversy over the health effects of isolated carrageenan extracts, but the whole plant has been used for food & medicinal purposes for centuries by local communities around where it naturally grows in the ocean.
Pacific Harvest sources Sea Chicory from Peru as it does not grow around New Zealand’s shores. It is tested in accordance with the Australia New Zealand food code requirement for contaminants and lovingly hand packed in our food grade facility in Auckland.
How to Use Sea Chicory
Sea Chicory will provide a feast for your eyes and palette! Sea Chicory not only looks visually exciting on a plate (so makes a great garnish) but it has a naturally mild flavour so is very versatile. It will take on the flavour of whatever liquid it is soaked in, so one can experiment with citrus or ginger flavours for example and influence the end flavour.
Choose which colours you prefer (red or green), or blend them for visual interest. Note that the green Sea Chicory is prone to sun bleaching so if you prefer a lighter colour you can leave it out in the sun to allow the colour to soften. However if you want to maintain the rich green colour, keep it in it’s box and in a dark place in your pantry until you need to use it.
Sea Chicory will hydrate very quickly – in less than a minute or so. If you want to maintain the delicate shape don’t soak it too long or it will start to thicken and turn more gelatinous in texture.
Health Benefits of Sea Chicory
Sea Chicory offers a good source of natural iodine and also offers calcium, magnesium, sodium and potassium. It’s considered a highly nutritious seaweed, being low in fat, rich in vitamins and plant proteins. Scientists have discovered that red seaweeds like Sea Chicory contain a raft of beneficial polysaccharides called carrageenan, which may have unique medicinal properties. They are claimed to be antibacterial as well as antiviral, even anti-herpetic (able to kill the herpes viruses) and anti-coagulant.
Carrageenan (naturally present in red seaweeds) has also traditionally been used for coughs, bronchitis, tuberculosis, and intestinal problems. Carrageenan is a common ingredient in weight loss products as it contains chemicals which may decrease stomach and intestinal secretions. Large amounts of carrageenan seem to pull water into the intestine, and this may explain why it is often also used as a laxative. Carrageenan also might decrease pain and swelling (inflammation).
In summary, Sea Chicory makes a versatile and beautiful edible garnish, whether you are a professional chef or just appreciate beauty! It has the added benefit of offering a raft of nutrients which will help to boost the mineral content of any food you serve Sea Chicory with! We hope you enjoy this stunning seaweed and please do share your beautiful creations with us!
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 & individual needs & requirements.