The greens of the sea can be an incredibly healthful addition to your diet. Seaweeds are loaded with naturally occuring minerals, iodine, fiber, calcium, and iron, and there are so many varieties to choose from that you will likely find many favorites! Though there are many type of sea vegetables to choose from, the ones that get the most action here in the VWJ kitchens are kombu (a variety of kelp), wakame, hijiki, nori, and arame.
Sea veggies are often found dried and are usually soaked before using- sometimes separately and sometimes in the individual recipe. There are a wide variety of seaweed brands to choose from, and there is a wide range of prices too. There are organic and non-organic options, some from more pristine waters than others, which affects the prices. Choose whichever fits into your budget; I don’t think there is too much difference between the expensive brands and other, more affordable options.
Because of the high fiber, iron, calcium and mineral content found in sea vegetables, it’s recommended to include leaves other greens into your diet at least a few times each week. This might seem like a lot of seaweed, but with the recipes below you’ll be able to mix them in seamlessly with foods you are already eating– some are as easy as boiling with your beans! Here’s a little primer on sea veggies and their uses, and following that are THREE new recipes featuring THREE different types of seaweeds to inspire you to eat your greens (of the sea) each week!
A primer on Seaweeds:
Nori: Nori is surely the type of seaweed most familiar to Westerners. It’s the flat sheet of seaweed that is used for sushi rolls of all sorts. This is also one of the most affordable types of seaweeds- but it doesn’t skimp on the nutritional benefits. Nori is super good for you! Generally nori comes toasted, which gives it a crunchier texture that is perfect for sushi rolls. I use nori about once each week for quick meals made with cashew cheeze, veggies and grains. For extra green love, try this recipe for Super Green Rolls made with grains, greens, and seaweeds. You can also blend nori sheets, sesame seeds and teeny pinch of salt to make your own Homemade Furikake (seaweed sprinkle)– see the recipe below!
Wakame: This is a very mild, almost sweet sea vegetable that is most at home in soups and stir-fries. It’s high in magnesium, iron, calcium, iodine, and many other vitamins. It has a pleasant, almost creamy texture that can be used in combination with greens or grains. To use, rehydrate in some warm water and add with greens to stir-fries- or make the yummy Barley Miso Soup found below!
Kombu: Kombu is a type of kelp that is best used for soup stocks and cooking beans. Adding a postage-stamp sized piece of kombu can mineralize your homemade broth and also tenderize your beans while adding some natural salty flavor. After beans are cooked, simple remove kombu (it will have quadrupled in size!)– or chop and add back to beans (it’s usually pretty mushy at this point). You can make a vegan dashi broth (a type of Japanese broth) by soaking kombu in water overnight.
Hijiki: Hijiki comes in small threads and makes a great addition to salads and stir-fries. It has a strong low-tide flavor that can be decreased by cooking in some apple juice. Hijiki needs to be reconstituted, and will quadruple in size from dried form, so start with just a few tablespoons. With a super high fiber, calcium, magnesium, and iron content, it’s a great addition to your diet- but use it sparingly because it’s also high in inorganic arsenic. Though some doctors warn against it, served in small amounts and with a variety of foods, it shouldn’t be a problem. For an interesting read on the health benefits- and alleged dangers- of hijiki seaweed, check out this article from Eden Foods. We like hijiki as it’s featured below in this deeply nourishing Edamame & Hijiki Salad adapted from Heidi Swanson’s book Super Natural Cooking.
Arame: Arame is a one of my favorite sea veggies, though it can be a little bit expensive. Like the other sea greens it’s loaded with minerals, fiber, and calcium to make it worth the cost! It comes in long threads and is great for salads and stir-fries. Try mixing some soaked arame with raw shredded carrots for a simple, vibrant salad. You can also add arame to any type of existing salad for a richer flavor and nutritional boost! Try this Arame Salad with Creamy Sesame Dressing for a light warm-weather meal.
Homemade Furikake (Seaweed Sprinkle)
1 (17-gram) package Toasted Nori Sheets
½ cup sesame seeds (brown, white, or mix)
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
½ teaspoon fine turbinado sugar
- Tear the nori sheets into very small pieces. Add nori, sesame seeds, and salt to food processor. Process until nori is very fine.
- Toss in sugar and pulse to combine.
- Store in a jar or airtight container.
Yield: about 1 cup furikake
Barley Miso Soup
4-6 cups water
¼ cup thinly sliced onions
¼ cup thinly sliced carrots
¼ cup barley miso
1 cup wakame
1 cups sliced greens (kale, spinach, etc.)
Fresh lemon and toasted sesame oil for garnish
- Bring water to a boil. Add onions, carrots, and stems and bring to a low boil. Let simmer until vegetables are soft, about 15 minutes.
- In a small bowl, mix miso with a few tablespoons water and stir until smooth.
- Reduce heat to low on soup, and stir in miso and wakame. Keep at a very low heat (do not boil) until wakame is soft.
- Add greens just before serving; squeeze lemon and drop in some sesame oil for extra flavor.
Yield: 2 servings
Edamame & Hijiki Salad
¼ cup Hijiki seaweed
1 (12-ounce) package shelled frozen edamame
1 cup shredded carrots
4 cups fresh spinach
2 cups shredded green cabbage
Creamy Miso Dressing
¼ cup brown rice vinegar
2 Tablespoons white miso
1 clove garlic, finely minced (optional)
1 Tablespoon honey
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
a few pinches sea salt
- Soak the hijiki in hot water for 20 minutes. Drain, and set aside
- Add edamame to a large pot of boiling salted water and cook for three minutes. Rinse in cool water and drain well.
- In a large bowl toss together soaked hijiki, edamame, carrots, spinach, and cabbage. Set aside.
- In a small bowl whisk together the dressing ingredients, ensuring miso is dissolved.
- Pour dressing onto salad and toss to distribute evenly. Serve immediately. Keep dressing separate if serving later.
Yield: 4-6 servings
Learn more about healthy eating with our What do You do with… Posts:
What do you do with… eggplant?
What do you do with… eggplant (part two)?
What do you do with… daikon?
What do you do with… amaranth?
What do you do with… black rice?
Source credits: Eden Foods, Mind Body Green, WH foods
Image credits: kombu (wikipedia), arame (Mahalia Freed), wakame (3yen), hijiki (divina), nori (wikipedia); soup, furikake, salad (Andrea Bertoli).
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