Gifts from the Sea

Add a powerhouse of nutrients

By Karen Frye

Walking along the shoreline in the northernmost part of Maine and into Canada at low tide, you will find beautiful sea vegetables on the rocks. Edible seaweed grows in an area of the ocean’s edge called the intertidal zone, a fertile area where the land’s organic mineral matter meets the ocean’s mix of water and sunlight.

Originating in Japan, the macrobiotic diet promotes the use of sea vegetables for improving health and includes them in many recipes. The Vikings carried dried seaweed on their voyages for sustenance.  Early New England whalers chewed on seaweed for its high vitamin C content to keep scurvy away. The Japanese incorporated sea vegetables in their diet regularly and used them in shrines and ceremonies.

Adding edible seaweed to your food will bathe your cells with a powerhouse of nutrients. Seaweed pioneer Evelyn McConnaughey has collected references from around the world of seaweed being used in the treatment of goiter and other thyroid problems, kidney ailments, ulcers, obesity, high cholesterol, hardening of the arteries and hypoglycemia. Traditional Oriental medicine has always promoted the use of seaweed to lower the risk of heart disease. High in potassium and low in sodium, it reduces the risk of high blood pressure and stroke.

Some of the sea vegetables found easily are:

— Alaria: perfect in soups, loaded with calcium and vitamin A.

— Arame: mild flavor, soak for a few minutes and add to salads or stir-frys.

— Dulse: a reddish-purple seaweed that can be enjoyed as a snack out of the bag, or added to sandwiches, salads and soups.

— Kelp: the all purpose sea veggie, it comes in shakers to sprinkle over food (an alternative to salt); exceptionally high in all minerals, especially calcium, potassium and magnesium.

— Kombu: usually found in strips, you can tenderize (by soaking in water for a few minutes) before use; excellent to add to soups, stocks and beans; very high in iodine.

— Wakame: a very mild taste, cooks quickly; traditionally used for miso soup. 

— Nori: if you’ve eaten sushi, you’ve eaten nori; it has a mild, nutty taste, use it for wraps, or crumble it over foods; the highest protein content of the sea veggies with significant amounts of the B vitamins.

Here is an easy soup recipe that is delicious and can get you on your way to making sea vegetables a part of your life.

Basic Miso Soup

6 cups water or vegetable stock

1 medium carrot, sliced diagonally

1 3-inch piece of wakame or kombu

2 scallions, thinly sliced diagonally

3-4 tablespoons miso paste (found in the refrigerated section)

Bring water or stock to a simmer, add carrots and cook until tender.  Soak the seaweed in cold water while carrots cook, then drain.  When carrots are tender, add the seaweed to the stock and simmer for a minute. Add the scallions and simmer for another minute. Remove from the heat.  Dissolve miso in some of the broth and return to pot.  Allow to steep briefly before serving. You can remove the seaweed because all the nutrients are now in the soup. You can add other vegetables like celery, onion and ginger. Sprinkle with fresh chopped parsley before serving.

Many health care professionals promote following a plant-based diet.  Don’t hesitate to include the sea vegetables as well. You’ll be glad you did.  PS

Karen Frye is the owner and founder of Natures Own and teaches yoga at the Bikram Yoga Studio.

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