Fish and shellfish aren’t your only seafood options—have you ever considered sea vegetables?
One reason to put marine plants on your menu: “The sea is an especially potent source of minerals,” says Mark Sisson, who blogs at Mark’s Daily Apple. “While terrestrial vegetables are limited to what they can obtain from the soil, sea vegetables spend their entire lives luxuriating in the world’s largest, oldest, most complete mineral bath.”
Sea veggies have a long history of culinary use...and in places you wouldn’t normally associate with them.
“Japanese and other Asian countries are famous for their seaweed consumption, but even the Vikings and Celts would chew on dried dulse for sustenance,” says Sisson. “Hawaiians and Polynesians cultivated kelp farms, and the ancient Greeks regularly ate edible seaweed.”
The following are some of the more common forms.
Arame is a type of kelp, a large, brown sea vegetable that comes in many varieties. It is found in cuisines of Japan and Korea, but is also used by cooks in China, Indonesia and Peru.
Arame “has a sweet, mild flavor, making it a great sea vegetable for beginners,” notes Sisson. Available in dry form, it should be soaked for five minutes before use. Sisson recommends sautéing arame with winter squash, onions, butter and a bit of chili pepper.
Dulse is a reddish-purple seaweed found on the northern Atlantic and Pacific coasts. It has a salty, smoky flavor; scientists at Oregon State University have even patented a strain of dulse that they claim tastes like bacon when cooked.
Dried dulse is sold flaked, powdered or in whole-leaf form, or as part of seasoning mixes. Use it in salad dressing or sprinkle it over eggs.
Some markets also supply fresh dulse; Sisson suggests rubbing the whole leaves with olive oil and salt, then roasting them in the oven to make chips. “ I’ve even eaten handfuls straight out of the bag,” he adds.
Another form of kelp, kombu is eaten throughout East Asia. It is available dried or pickled in vinegar, most often as wide or square strips, generally after being aged for up to a decade. (Kombu is not related to kombucha, the popular fermented tea drink.)
Thick and chewy, kombu is a main ingredient in dashi, a standard Japanese stock used as the basis of miso and other soups. It is prized for “bringing out the true flavor of other foods,” says George Embiricos, who blogs at Food Republic. For instance, Embiricos says kombu is “used to prepare a seasoning for sushi rice.”
If you’ve seen a marine vegetable before, it’s likely that you saw nori. “Many Americans associate ‘edible seaweed’ with nori, commonly used as a wrap for sushi rolls and onigiri,” Embiricos says.
Nori, a type of red algae, is made by shredding the plant and pressing it into thin, dried sheets, and is available in different quality grades. “Sushi purists swear that nothing tops a temaki, or hand roll, made with a high-grade, freshly toasted sheet of nori,” says Embiricos. You can also find flavored nori sold as a snack food.
If you’ve ever had seaweed salad, then you’ve had wakame, which Embiricos calls “possibly the most versatile edible sea vegetable.” Native to many coastal areas around the world—it’s considered invasive in some places—wakame has a subtly sweet flavor and a silky texture. It is known for expanding greatly in size after cooking.
In Japan and Korea, restaurants will often serve wakame tossed with a sesame oil over a bed of lettuce. “I highly recommend trying this out,” says Sisson. “The chewy robustness of the seaweed holds up well against the delicate lettuce.”
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**These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.