Our ten top tips for eating seaweed are a great place to start if you are new to the world of sea vegetables (also known as seaweeds). Knowing where to start and how to use them in your kitchen can seem slightly daunting.
Don’t worry – sea vegetables come in so many varieties, many of which we stock here at Pacific Harvest, and with so many great ways to use them in your cooking, you’ll be wanting to use them in every dish before you know it!
Why Eat Sea Vegetables (a.k.a seaweeds)?
You may be surprised to learn that before World War One, most coastal communities across the globe regularly ate seaweed to supplement their daily diet, used it as medicine, and even as building material and fertiliser for their crops. The Japanese have long been one of the world’s biggest consumers of seaweeds, typically consuming a large amount of seaweed per capita (especially in Okinawa). Japanese populations have been studied for their longevity and the minimal impact lifestyle diseases have had on their communities – it is thought that seaweed plays a role in this.
At Pacific Harvest, we advocate for a return to nutrient-rich foundational foods that have supported human health for millennia so that we are giving our bodies the nutrition it needs to not just survive, but thrive, enabling us to live our lives to the fullest.
Wholesome foods grown on land in our soil, like the range of vegetables we eat day to day, are great and offer many benefits to our health, but the reality is that they can be lacking in critical nutrients due to over-cultivation, erosion and other environmental factors. On the other hand, the sea is the ideal ‘ground’ for growing nourishing foods that support our health. Sea vegetables, harvested from the ocean, contain an abundance of nutrients and minerals because seaweeds are very efficient at absorbing these offerings from our oceans. Provided we are careful to choose uncontaminated seaweed, it offers us rich nutritional value.
Despite being used in traditional diets for millennia, in recent years seaweed has been hailed as a superfood – and for good reason! What would you say if I told you that these are nutrient dense foods which can be eaten raw, will expand when you rehydrate them, that you can change the taste of, will last for years if stored correctly, and will bring you great health benefits and a wonderful range of new and interesting flavours?
Sounds too good to be true but it really is! Read on for our ten top tips for getting the most out of your seaweeds, as a pantry staple.
10 Top Tips for Eating Seaweeds
Here are our top tips for getting the most out of seaweeds in your kitchen for maximum nutritional benefit and delicious-tasting meals:
- Generally speaking, seaweeds can be eaten raw – Pacific Harvest’s seaweeds are raw and largely unprocessed. They contain all the nutrients naturally present in the sea. Cooking seaweed can reduce its nutritional value because some nutrients (especially enzymes and certain vitamins) are affected by heat. There are a few exceptions to this, such as kombu, which is usually heated to make stock, kelp seasonings, used to flavour and tenderise food whilst cooking, and agar, which needs to be ‘melted’ to activate its ‘jellifying’ properties. When you re-hydrate seaweed in tepid water (rather than hot), or add it at the end of cooking, you preserve nutrients that will nourish your body.
2. Most seaweeds quickly re-hydrate in minutes. Only thicker plants such as kombu and sea spaghetti require additional time, for instance an extra 30 minutes. It helps to use tepid water instead of cold water.
3. Seaweeds will expand about 5-10 times when you re-hydrate them – A little goes a long way. Consume fairly soon after re-hydrating (as per packet instructions). Take care to only re-hydrate what you need for the meal and experiment with small amounts first until you get used to how each variety expands.
4. The water you soak your seaweed in to re-hydrate it is highly nutritious and can be used in a variety of ways, including smoothies, soups or stocks. Add it to your house plants or use it for facials and beauty treatments.
5.You can change the taste of seaweed by soaking it in flavoured liquids. The seaweed will absorb the flavour of whatever it is hydrating in, especially if you soak it for longer. As an example, try this delicious winter fruit salad using sea spaghetti soaked overnight in kirsch, or alternatively in a fruit tea, which lends it a sweet flavour!
6. Seaweeds are hygroscopic – this means they will absorb moisture from surrounding ingredients. If you are using seaweed flakes, such as dulse flakes, sprinkle them with a little water prior to using, unless you are using them to garnish and add flavour to a soup for example, where they will naturally soften due to the steam or moisture in the meal.
7. Stored well, in a dry, cool and dark place, dried seaweeds can last for years – The complex salts that are part of their make-up act as natural preservatives and keep bugs & fungus away.
8. Experiment with seaweed seasoning – There is no need to re-invent the wheel, just use seaweeds as an alternative to salt or herbs and spices. Because of their nutrient density, only a sprinkle is required. In fact it is possible to eat too much seaweed – particularly if you have a thyroid sensitivity. All our suggestions are not meant to replace the advice of a health care practitioner who can tailor advice to your personal health circumstances. Seaweeds are a wonderfully chemically free way to season your food to boost umami flavour.
9.Seaweeds taste salty because of the abundance of minerals they contain – All seaweeds have some amount of sodium but far less than salt so can be an excellent salt replacement option, especially since seaweeds also contain potassium, which keeps the sodium content in balance. Salt cravings are often a sign your body needs more nutrients – seaweed is the perfect solution! Brown seaweeds tend to have higher sodium content, but still a small amount compared to salt. If you prefer a less salty flavour, simply rinse or soak the seaweed a little longer prior to cooking. Seaweeds are an excellent source of umami flavour.
10. Seaweeds come in a variety of colours, textures and tastes and have unique nutritional profiles – Eat your colours applies to land vegetables as much as sea vegetables! Just as we understand a range of colours are required when eating land vegetables, we recommend eating from all three of the sea vegetable colour groups: red, green and brown seaweeds, or try our seaweed blends like furikake or the power of three flakes.
To learn more about the composition and benefits of each group, read our helpful guide on how to get started with seaweed and on red, green and brown seaweeds.
Pacific Harvest offers a wide variety of sea vegetables or seaweeds to suit any taste, diet or occasion – see our full range.
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.