Why Eat It

Why Eat It

Consisting of long stems and frondlike leaves, the various types of seaweed, or sea vegetables, are large forms of algae. Fresh sea vegetables taste rather like greens with an overlay of seawater flavor. Dried sheets or strips of seaweed are commonly sold at Japanese grocery stores and health-food stores. They have a naturally salty flavor from their high mineral content, and are sometimes crumbled or shredded and used as a seasoning rather than served as a vegetable.

Seaweed is high in fiber, and some varieties are rich in vitamin C and beta-carotene. But its greatest claim to fame is as a concentrated source of minerals, including potassium, calcium, magnesium, iron, and iodine. (Some types, such as kombu and wakame, are also high in sodium.) However, you have to eat a good-sized serving--not just the tiny amount that's wrapped around sushi--to get any significant benefit.


Dulse: The Scots collect a type of seaweed called dulse and make soup from it.

Irish moss: Irish moss is a red alga and the source of carrageenan, which is used as a thickening agent in food products such as cottage cheese and salad dressing.

Kombu: Kombu is a type of kelp, which is a brown alga. The Japanese use kombu to make a flavorful broth.

Nori: Nori is a red alga that is pressed into sheets and dried. It is often toasted to bring out its flavor. The sheets are cut into strips for adding to recipes, and these sheets are the traditional sushi wrappers. This type of seaweed is also called laver and is used by the Irish and the Welsh.

Sea lettuce: Sea lettuce is a green alga.

Wakame: Like kombu, wakame is a type of kelp. It is cooked in soups or stir-fried and served over rice.

Date Published: 04/21/2005
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