Seaweed: The Slimy, Salty Treat

August 8, 2013


Readily available on beaches all over the world, seaweed is a salty, slimy ingredient many people would be surprised to find on their plates.

Yet seaweed is a popular food source. In many communities, it is a traditional staple which has been eaten for centuries. Freely available on the seashore, seaweed has been gathered up, washed, minced, and cooked in many different ways.

Seaweed forms a major part of the Japanese diet. In South Wales it is fried as laverbread (or bara lawr in Welsh) and offered as part of breakfast. During the nineteenth century, it was an essential breakfast ingredient that was served with bacon, mushrooms, and sausage to miners who needed a high energy diet to see them through the day.

The Inuit obtain all their vitamin C from eating seaweed. Scottish crofters gathered seaweed and fed it to their sheep to make the meat taste sweeter. In Ireland it is eaten as a snack and a hangover cure. Hungry Irish children look forward to kelp crisps in their lunch bags.

Not all types of seaweed are edible. The most commonly used are dulse, sea lettuce, kombu (kelp), sea spaghetti, hijiki, nori, caragheen and laver. Although it is edible, Kanten seaweed is generally not eaten as a food. Instead, it is boiled and its extract used as a gelling agent better known as agar agar.

The other problem with fresh seaweed is that it has to be cooked almost immediately – it does not keep. Seaweed can be sprinkled on spaghetti and risotto, crumbled into soups, added to stews, cut into strips and pickled with vegetables, wrapped around fish, or even added to cookies.

Many varieties of seaweed can be eaten raw in salads or stir fried.

Kale, spinach, and cabbage are so yesterday. If you’re looking to serve some greens with a kick, wander down to the shore and gather up some slimy greens. Give seaweed a try!

One Comment

  1. LaraStewart

    August 9, 2013 at 11:49 pm

    There’s a great agar salad recipe in Madhur Jaffrey’s “World of the East Vegetarian Cooking”.

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