We tend to think that vegetables are one of the healthiest foods around. But there is one group of plant foods in particular that has 10 to 20 times the minerals and vitamins of “land” vegetables—and that’s sea vegetables, also known as seaweed or sea greens. Often used in Japanese cooking, these vibrantly colored multi-textured foods can help detoxify the body…may have anticancer benefits…and can stimulate thyroid function (in people with low thyroid). To find out more about bringing delicious sea vegetables, such as arame, nori and dulse, to your table, our editors spoke to Jill Gusman, who teaches at the Natural Gourmet Institute in New York City and is the author of Vegetables from the Sea: Everyday Cooking with Sea Greens (William Morrow). Here’s what she recommends…
Known for: Mild flavor, which is good for beginners. Looks like black spaghetti.
How to use: In salads and sautéed with other vegetables.
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Nutritional value: Contains iodine, iron, vitamin A and calcium.
Known for: Red-colored sea vegetable. Available in powdered form or as soft, chewy whole leaves.
How to use: Sprinkle the powdered form into salads and soups. Use leaves in soups or sandwiches.
Nutritional value: Contains vitamins B-6 and B-12, iron and potassium and has less sodium than other seaweeds.
Known for: Jet black color. When dried, it looks like small twigs.
How to use: Add to any vegetable dish.
Nutritional value: Contains about 14 times the calcium of the equivalent amount of milk.
Known for: Color ranges from gray to green. Cut leathery seaweed pieces with a scissors.
How to use: Can be used for stock. Helps to tenderize vegetables and beans.
Nutritional value: Contains potassium, calcium, vitamins A and C.
Known for: Dark green, paperlike seaweed wraps around sushi rolls.
How to use: Shred into rice dishes or stir-fry dishes.
Nutritional value: Contains protein, calcium, iron, potassium and vitamin A.
Known for: Dark green and leaf-like (used in miso soup) or bright green spaghetti-type pieces (used in seaweed salads). Has a subtle sweet flavor.
How to use: Good soup or salad ingredient.
Nutritional value: Contains protein, iron, calcium and other minerals.
Sea vegetables are “sea-like” in flavor—and range from very mild to very salty. They are mainly sold prepackaged in dry form in sheets, whole leaves or powders at health-food stores and in the natural-foods sections of many supermarkets. They also are sold online from companies such as Maine Coast Sea Vegetables (207-565-2907, www.SeaVeg.com) and Mendocino Sea Vegetable Company (707-895-2996, www.Seaweed.net). Recipes are available on both sites. More ways to use them…
Snacks. The milder varieties of sea vegetables—such as nori and dulse—make a good crispy snack right out of the package.
Added ingredient. Dried sea vegetables can be hydrated—and then added to salads, soups, stews, omelets and vegetable side dishes (they are delicious sautéed with carrots, mushrooms or squash). Soak dried sea vegetables in water for about five to 10 minutes or until tender. Drain.
Powdered seasoning. Dulse, for example, is available as a powdered seasoning. Use it to flavor vegetable dishes, pasta, soups or even popcorn. Seaweed seasonings provide a subtle sea-like salt flavor that is different from that of table salt.