If you thought vegetables only grew in soil or on land, you're deliciously mistaken. Simple to cook and serve in your favorite dishes, sea vegetables are plentiful and full of flavor. They're also the pearls of the vegetable family and can add depth to just about anything in your cooking selection.
Although sea vegetables are underappreciated, they've long been a staple in Asian cuisines.
Think you've never eaten a sea vegetable before? Think again. Food manufacturers often use processed sea vegetables as thickeners or stabilizers in all types of common products, from instant pudding to toothpaste.
Sea veggies are also chockfull of chlorophyll and dietary fiber and they lend a salty flavor to foods which comes from a balanced combination of sodium, potassium, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, iron and many other minerals naturally found in the ocean.
Different types of sea vegetables:
Also called kanten or Japanese gelatin, it's a clear, tasteless alternative to animal or chemical-based gelatin and comes in flakes. Agar agar is actually a combination of various sea veggies and just like any other gelatin; it can be used to firm up jellies, pies and puddings. It simply dissolves in hot liquid and thickens at room temperature.
Look for thin and wiry black shreds. They have a sweet, mild flavor and pack in a good supply of calcium, iodine, potassium, vitamin A and dietary fiber. Rinse thoroughly, and then soak in warm water for 10 to 15 minutes before cooking. Try them in quiches, omelets, stir-fries, pasta salad or tossed into a cold salad with light vinaigrette.
This sea vegetable isn't green at all. It's reddish brown, full of potassium and protein and available in whole stringy leaves or powdered as a condiment. Expect a chewy texture and slightly salty finish. Pan-fried in sesame oil, it becomes feather-light and crispy and can lend a savory flavor and crunch to any sandwich or salad.
Its dark purple color might just romance you. Look for kombu in thick strips or sheets. Eating it adds iodine, calcium, magnesium and iron to your diet, easily added dry to the cooking liquid for rice, beans or soup. Cooking hint: Keep in mind that kombu doubles its volume and readily soaks up water, so add extra liquid to broths, beans and stocks whenever you add dried kombu.
This just might be the sea vegetable you know best since it's typically used to make sushi rolls like California Rolls. Look for nori to be dark purple to marine green. It's readily available toasted or untoasted, too. Eat up as it contains both iodine and vitamin C so don't hesitate to use it as a condiment for rice, soups, salads, casseroles or grains either crushed into flakes or cut into strips.
Its name gives away the fact that this sea vegetable, brownish-green in color, looks just like a miniature palm tree. Expect a sweet, salty taste with this one, so enjoy it raw or sautéed, added to soups or salads or toast some and add to your trail mix.
This deep grayish-green sea vegetable is the tenderest of them all. Consider adding it to your diet since it supplies dietary fiber and potassium. After soaking it for about 10 minutes in water, wakame expands to seven times its original size. After being soaked then cooked, long fronds of wakame become silky and almost melt in your mouth. Eat raw as a snack, add to soups and stir fries or roast and sprinkle on salads or stews as an easy way to add minerals to your favorite foods.
Why would anyone want to eat sea vegetables?
Because they offer one of the broadest ranges of minerals of any food, containing virtually all the minerals found in the ocean, and not surprisingly, many of same minerals found in human blood. They also offer a variety of unique phytonutrients, including their sulfated polysaccharides. Unlike some other categories of vegetables, sea vegetables do not appear to depend on carotenoids and flavonoids for their antioxidant benefits, because in additional to these two important categories of antioxidants, sea vegetables contain several other types, including alkaloid antioxidants. Sea vegetables are an excellent source of iodine, vitamin C, manganese, and vitamin B2. They are also a very good source of vitamin A and copper as well as a good source of protein, pantothenic acid, potassium, iron, zinc, vitamin B6, niacin, phosphorus, and vitamin B1.
So there you have it, add some delicious and coulorful sea vegetables to your dishes and amaze your family and friends and delight in the amazing benefits they contain.