The Sea, the origin of life is one of our greatest untapped resources of food. Sea Vegetables, amongst the most ancient life forms on earth have been harvested for centuries by people all over the world for use as ‘FOOD’. As they grow, sea vegetables convert the inorganic minerals in sea water into organic mineral salts that can be combined with their amino acids – the ideal way for us to get the minerals needed to protect our organs and nourish our hair, skin, nails, blood, bones and muscles.
In fact, since modern farming methods have resulted in subsequent decline in quality topsoil, including sea vegetables in the diet may be the only way we can ensure getting a healthy supply of essential trace elements, minerals and vitamins.
Commercially, sea vegetable has been used in almost all prepared food such as ice-cream, puddings, salad dressings, cheeses, breads almost any food that requires thickeners or stabilizers. However, eating sea vegetables in these forms are worlds apart from eating them direct from the sea.
The health benefits from sea vegetable are many and they compare favorably with land grown vegetables. It is a good source of protein and carbohydrate and is rich in minerals, trace elements, amino acids and vitamins. If eaten on a regular basis sea vegetable contains many substances that are very useful for the maintenance of good health and well-being.
Many essential nutrients are found in abundance such as calcium, potassium, iron, iodine, phosphorus, magnesium, trace elements plus the necessary amino acids. It also contains the antioxidant group vitamins A, E, C plus vitamin B1, B2, Niacin, B6 and the all-important B12, an essential compound that is rare in vegetarian diets but needed by the body for healthy neuromuscular function and blood healthy in iron.
The iron content in sea vegetables is from two to ten times that of egg yolk and spinach. The vitamin C content equals that of tomatoes but is “four times” that of apples with much less acidity. Sea vegetables work directly on the blood and alkalizing it if it is too acidic and reducing any excess stores of fat and mucus associated with the modern diet.
An important substance called “Alginic Acid” found in darker variety of sea vegetables such as Wakame has several uses. This sticky substance that holds the plant together in the wild, acts as a binding agent transforming toxic heavy metals in the large intestines into harmless salts, that are easily eliminated. It is very beneficial after the removal of mercury amalgam fillings, as it aids the bodies’ detoxification process. Another important function “Alginic Acid” has is it slows down the rate of increase in blood sugar levels after meals, which is very useful for diabetics and those suffering from hypoglycemia. Try a small amount with each meal!
At McGill University in Montreal, researches demonstrated the ability of sea vegetables to remove radioactive – 90 percent from the body. The mineral content creates salt in the body, effective in eliminating radioactive and chemical wastes, which we pick in the environment. Modern science confirms that seaweed is one of natures’ all-round miracles full of minerals and health-giving properties. These secrets of the ocean have been used for hundreds of years by many cultures around the world. Japanese folk lore has long held that sea vegetables have effective anti-tumoral, anti-coagulant and antibiotic effects on the blood.
The chlorophyll in sea vegetable is a major body detoxifier for the blood, liver and bowel helping to lower cholesterol, prevent ulcers, thinning blood, killing bacteria and even curing constipation. The Laminine sea vegetable is said to be able to prevent aging of the arteries and to be effective in preventing high blood pressure.
Sea vegetables have proven positive in ameliorating cancer, rheumatism, arthritis, diarrhea, worms, bronchitis, asthma, gall and kidney stones, nervous disorders, thyroid and other endocrine system malfunctions.
Beyond their obvious health-giving properties, sea vegetables can be quite tasty. When added to beans, it has the unique ability to shorten cooking time. It also adds flavor and promotes the digestibility of most foods and accentuate the natural tastes of the vegetables, beans, grains with which they are cooked.
There are many different kinds of sea vegetables namely:
Wakame is a long, feather-like dark green sea leaf that grows at depths of around one or two meters. It thrives in cold, strong ocean currents and is high in calcium and rich in other trace minerals. Wakame is indispensable in Japanese diet. In Japanese folk medicine, Wakame is known to clean and strengthen the blood. Miso soup with Wakame has been used for generations as an aid in recovering from the effects of childbirth.
To prepare Wakame, rinse and soak Wakame for 5-10 mins. It inflates 7 times its actual size. To make a delicious soup, boil 5 cups of water and add Wakame into boiling water after cutting it into bite-size pieces. Cover pot and lower the heat to simmer the soup. Cook till Wakame is soft (about 20 mins). Turn off heat and add miso.
Wakame is delicious raw (soaked in water) in salads with rice vinegar or simply as a garnish. It can also be added to any cooked dish: stews, vegetables, and casseroles.
Mekabu is the sporophylls, or reproductive part at the base of the Wakame plant, that is prized for its mineral-rich qualities. It’s strong salty flavor and sticky texture can add a wonderful richness to root vegetable stews. When cooked in liquid mekabu opens out into a beautiful flower like shape. Mekabu is reaped by raking the sea floor and picking out only quality mekabu. However, the best quality mekabu are the ones handpicked by woman divers.
Mekabu being the root of the Wakame, thus contains more minerals than any other part of plant. It is highly nutritious and valued as an effective medicinal tonic.
Kombu is deep-sea kelp with thick wide leaves growing best in clean cool waters. The choice quality of Kombu with the best texture grows very deep in ocean currents, which are neither too strong nor too weak. High grade Kombu comes in long, flat strips. It is folded and packaged and is quite stiff, being well-dried and of a uniformly dark green color. It is sometimes dappled with natural white powder, which comes from the glutamate of the Kombu. This appearance indicates that the Kombu was cut from the most desirable, central part of the plant.
Rinse a 3” Kombu and boil in 6 cups of water for 5 minutes. Use this boiled Kombu as stock for making soups, sauces and vegetable dishes. When Kombu is soaked in water, it will widen and thicken considerably becoming quite tender. Kombu is delicious when cooked together with root vegetables, such as turnip, carrots, burdock and lotus root. Cooked Kombu can also be used for Kombu rolls, salads. Seaweeds, especially Kombu, contain glutamic acid, which enhances the flavor of other foods and adds nutritional value. It is good for arthritis, cardiac problems, and goiters, high and low blood pressure and tumors.
Kombu powder (kombu-ko) – premium quality kombu that has been dried and simply ground into a very fine powder. It has an appealing sweet flavor and can be sprinkled on food as a condiment or cooked in water to prepare a nutritious drink.
Kelp powder as marketed by the health food industry is usually ground from ungraded Atlantic varieties of kombu and has a coarse texture with a stronger sea flavor than Japanese kombu powder. It is sometimes used as a food supplement, but it also makes an excellent tonic to add to bath water.
Arame is black seaweed that has a similar texture and consistency to Hijiki but with a milder flavor and aroma. It is harvested fresh in early springtime and cooked for seven hours to make it tender and then dried in the sun. Originally a wide leaf, Arame is sliced into thin strands to make it easier to use.
Wash it well to remove grit. Soak it for a few minutes in water to cover. Sauté thinly sliced vegetables, such as carrots in sesame oil. Add Arame and soaking water to the vegetables and simmer for 20 minutes. Season with tamari soy sauce and cook for 15 more minutes.
Arame is a source of protein, fat and vitamins A, B1 and B2.
Nori is dried laver pressed into thin sheets. Like natural, organic farming the cultivation of Nori is an intricate and demanding craft. Seed quality, water temperature, a pollution free environment, seeding and harvesting time, as well as the method of drying are all critical factors and makes good Nori relatively expensive. As there are many grades of natural Nori in the market, the following guidelines can be used when choosing Nori.
- Good Nori has a deep, rich, purplish black color while the cheaper grades are a flat, greenish black.
- Fine Nori has a brilliant, gleaming luster as compared to the dull, lifeless quality of cheaper grades.
- High quality Nori has a complex, fragrant aroma, while lower grades have an unappealing, synthetic smell.
The laver used for making Nori is collected on nets supported by bamboo stilts in tidal waters. The water coming in and out causes the Nori to grow on nets where it can be collected at low tide. The laver is then pressed between mats and dried in the sun.
Nori should be lightly toasted on one side over an open flame and then cut into thin strips and eaten with tamari soy sauce. They are a variety of ways Nori can be used for cooking. It can be crumpled and used as garnish on grain and vegetable dishes. The sheets also make an excellent wrapper for rice balls when on a picnic or when travelling. It is great in sandwiches, salads, breads, pies and baked foods. Nori can also be used to add into soup by itself or in combination with tofu and vegetables.
KANTEN (AGAR AGAR)
Agar agar is a traditional gelatin. It is made from eight different varieties of red seaweed. A long process carried out in midwinter makes it. All the seaweeds are cooked together and allowed to harden into a heavy gelatin which is then cut into square bars and spread out to dry on mats in barren winter rice fields. During the night, the agar agar freezes, and moisture comes out of suspension and forms ice on the surface. In the morning when the temperature rises, the ice melts and runs off. After repetition of this process for ten days, all the moisture disappears leaving only the flaky brittle agar-agar.
Agar agar is recommended as an all-purpose gelatin for use in the home. Makers of sweets and candies most prominently use it. Agar agar is used to make sweet or savory jelly, custard, mousse, flan and soup. To use agar agar, simply soak one bar of chopped or torn up agar agar in 3 cups of water and/or juice until it becomes soft. Boil slowly for 15 minutes. Mix in flavorings or add fruits or vegetables. Pour gelatin into mold and chill until it is firm for refreshing salads, aspics and desserts. To make savory jelly, make soup with chunks of vegetable according to preference and add agar agar before cooking. It will turn into jelly after it cools. It is a delicious light meal and is good for the intestines.
Agar agar has the effect of dissolving cholesterol and is good for the heart. Maintaining a balanced diet and also eating agar are good for people with high blood pressure.
Hijiki is a stringy black sea grass that grows best on submerged rocky ledges along the coasts. As it prefers a degree of sunlight, it grows at depth of around one or two meters. Hijiki will cook to a firm texture that imparts a delicious enduring taste; and its shimmering black appearance will highlight most meal.
Hijiki requires a year of growth to mature and is harvested in spring by hand. Unlike other varieties of seaweed, which are merely sun dried and require no further processing, Hijiki is very tough in its natural state so it must be dried out, steamed for 4 hours and dried again. It is then soaked into the juice of Arame to enhance the black color and sun-dried to be packaged for sale.
To prepare Hijiki, rinse it well before soaking it in enough water to cover for 20 mins. After sautéing the drained Hijiki for 15 minutes add soaking water so that it barely covers the Hijiki in the pan and cook for one hour. The sweetness of Hijiki comes out best if sautéed first before cooking in water. When the Hijiki is cooked, it will swell to four or five times its actual size since it absorbs moisture. Lastly, season the Hijiki by adding some tamari, soy sauce and cook for a few more minutes (Hijiki requires longer cooking than most sea vegetables). Hijiki cooked in combination with tofu and vegetables such as carrots, burdock, mushrooms and lotus root make a delightful dish.
Hijiki contains fourteen times the calcium of cow’s milk and also contains large quantities of protein, vitamin A and B and iron. It is rich in valuable trace minerals. Hijiki is also recommended for diabetics.
Purple red dulse has a soft texture with a uniquely spicy flavor. It can be used to prepare a delightful range of soups and condiments and lightly cooked it is a tasty accompaniment to oats and other cooked grains. Simply soaking it makes a colorful and nutritious addition to a variety of salads.
Dulse is the most popular native sea vegetable of the North Atlantic and has been used for well over a thousand years as a food by the people of northwest Europe.
Dulse grows profusely around the low water line in the turbulent waters on rocky shores. The plants are small, measuring between six and twelve inches (15-30cm) long and have flat, smooth fronds. During harvesting, the plants are picked by hand during low tide. They are simply dried by the sun and wind then sorted and packaged for sale. Because of its natural habitat around the tide line, dulse may contain small shells and should be thoroughly cleaned before use.
Dulse is the richest of all the sea vegetables in iron, which makes it an important blood strengthener. It also contains an abundance of potassium, magnesium, iodine and phosphorus. After Nori, dulse has the highest protein content of any common sea vegetable.
OATMEAL DULSE CROQUETTES
- 2 oz rolled oats
- 1 ½ oz dulse (soaked for 5 minutes in water and finely sliced)
- 2 tbsp whole meal flour
- Sea salt
- Sesame oil
- Mix the rolled oats, hing, dulse, flour and sea salt with enough of the dulse soaking water to form a stiff mix.
- Shape into 2 inch diameter flat croquettes with your hands adding more dulse soaking water or flour, if necessary, to obtain a firm consistency.
- Pan fry or bake in oven (375oF) till golden brown.
NOTE: Serve with a dipping sauce of either fresh ginger juice, shoyu and water or grated daikon radish with a few drops of shoyu.
Appreciate & Treasure with what we now possessed
Rejoice & be thankful with what we once possessed
Be happy & open minded to with what we had never possessed
~Ms Chu Yun Bi Teunissen