Something Green Part 5 - Sea Vegetables
Updated: Aug 6, 2019
When I started to blog, one of the things I wanted to draw attention to was increasing the amount of green plant foods that we choose to eat.
Seldom will a plate of food I have prepared not contain something green. When I am planning what to cook a little voice in my head says that sounds great, but where is the green?
My focus with the “Something Green” posts I have done in the past was on getting you excited about eating more of these lovely greens. By discovering how many different greens they are should have made it easier to incorporate them into our diets. From the big brassica family to all the delicious green leaves as well as the culinary herbs.
Greening a plate of food should be second nature to all of us.
But there was one group of foods I wanted to write about but never seemed to get around to doing and that is Sea Vegetables.
It was when I was catching up with family living in Scotland that I was reminded that it was time to write about Sea Vegetables.
They live a very inspiring life on a croft by the sea. This spring they harvested seaweed, which they then air-dried and ground up. They use as a seasoning for their food. So simple so effective and a great way to benefit from these amazing plants.
In Cornwall, there is a company called Cornish Seaweed that specialises in harvesting and drying seaweed, so of course, I couldn’t resist trying a pack of their Sea Greens.
What are Sea Vegetables?
Edible seaweeds are often referred to as Sea Vegetables. This reminds us that there is a whole delicious group of vegetables from the sea that we can add to our cooking.
Sea Vegetables are by definition marine algae that adhere to rocks and the sea bed close to the coast. This has always allowed us ease of access to this food source.
There has been a long tradition of using sea vegetables in cooking, particularly Japanese. Sea Vegetables are slowly making a resurgence due to their many health benefits.
Types of Sea Vegetables
There are so many different kinds to choose from, each with different health benefits.
Some of the more familiar ones are Nori, Wakame, Arame, Dulse, Kombu, Kelp, Sea Lettuce, Irish moss and Chlorella.
Even though I have put them under “Something Green” they are not all green as some are brown and others red.
Where do you find them?
You can harvest seaweed if you know where to go, very clean sea water away from human habitation. Seaweed is best to harvest in the spring and early summer.
Buying it already dried is an easy way to bring these vegetables into your kitchen. They can be a bit pricey but I find I don’t use much and not every day. A bag of dried sea vegetables can last a while. Clearspring is a UK brand available in South Africa offering a high-quality sea vegetable range.
You don’t have to go crazy and get in a whole lot of different ones. Maybe start with one or two and find ways to bring these into your cooking.
You can also find them added into some supplements, but I prefer to find enjoy their flavour in the food I eat.
Why are they good for you?
Sea Vegetables are rich in iodine and tyrosine, both of which are very important nutrients for thyroid function. Adding sea vegetables into your diet regularly can go a long way in helping to keep the thyroid gland healthy.
They contain a wide range of beneficial nutrients, including vitamins and minerals. They are so nutrient-dense that a little goes a long way. Only small amounts are needed, which is why they are such a versatile superfood.
Like all edible plants they contain potent antioxidants one is called fucoxanthin. Besides helping to protect the body from damaging free radicals fucoxanthin also helps to increase metabolism, which may help with weight loss.
They also contain prebiotics these are agar and carrageenan found in red seaweeds.
In the gut, these prebiotics help produce short-chain fatty acids that help to keep the gut microbiome healthy. A healthy gut microbiome helps to keep us healthy.
Theses prebiotics have a gel-like consistency, they are often used as a thickening again and agar is used as a vegetarian/vegan jelly.
How to Eat Sea Vegetables?
Sea Vegetables have a salty umami flavour which makes them very tasty and moreish.
Generally, we are not very familiar with them so we tend to forget about using them to enhance flavour as well as getting a health boost.
Think of them as you would herbs. I certainly don’t add them into everything and I don’t have them every day either but eaten regularly they are a great addition.
Here are some easy ways to bring them into your meals:
Buy a sea salt with added ground seaweed, this way you are using less salt and but still getting the salty flavour. if you can’t find one you can make it yourself. Mix natural sea salt with ground up seaweed, kelp is a good option.
The other option is to just use ground-up seaweed instead of salt. Seaweed is still high in sodium but less than regular salt and with more flavour, you end up using less.
It is so easy to make sushi either with fish or just go for veggies. For a quick lunch I don’t even bother to use rice. I make a roll with mashed avocado, thin slices of carrot, cucumber, radish and gently toasted seeds splashed with soya sauce. The avocado helps everything stick together. I eat it as a long hand roll rather than trying to cut it into slices.
Wakame or Sea Vegetable Mix
This is a simple way to add sea vegetables into food, I add them into miso soup but also love them in Asian style salads. I rehydrate them and then marinate them in the salad dressing.
Sea Vegetables are also perfect to add to soups, stocks and broths they add flavour but also help to thicken the soup. Miso is one of my favourite soups it is light and feels very nourishing.
This Japanese kelp is known to help break down the indigestible skin of legumes/pulses. If you don’t have Kombu a piece of kelp or other seaweed should help when cooking legumes.
These wafer-thin sheets of toasted seaweed are a very delicious snack although the plastic packaging is a bit of a shame.
Nori sheets filled with delicious ingredients, tightly rolled then dehydrated. These are the ultimate meat-free savoury snack. Read more HERE
Sea Vegetables all contain high amounts of iodine so limit the amount you use. Adding some into your food 3 - 4 times a week is a good way to really benefit from these vegetables. It is always important to remember that a varied diet is a healthy one.
Sea Vegetables can also contain heavy metals depending on where they have been harvested from. Make sure you are buying them from reputable companies that can trace the seaweed from their origin and that they are tested for purity.
If you have any great sea vegetable recipes you would like to share then pop over to Facebook and leave a comment or contact me and I will spread the word.