Introduction and description
In having one entry for seaweed, there is the danger that the importance of seaweed is not given enough prominence.
Sea weed is simply another name for a sea vegetable, so there are literally hundreds of different types of seaweed, and they are not weeds - anything but - as they are extraordinarily rich in minerals and vitamins.
The pollution of our seas by the wicked has meant that the sourcing of any seaweed has to be carefully considered, however, as long as you are careful in your choice of location, seaweed - all the various seaweeds - are extraordinary and versatile vegetables.
Edible seaweeds are marine algae whereas most freshwater algae are toxic. While marine algae are not toxic, some do contain acids that irritate the digestion canal, while some others can have a laxative effect, thus you do need to know your seaweeds.
The dish often served in western Chinese restaurants as 'Crispy Seaweed' is not seaweed but cabbage that has been dried and then fried.
Wakame (Undaria pinnatifida) & Hiromi (Undaria undarioides) - Wakame is native to cold temperate coastal areas of Japan, Korea, and China, in recent decades it has become established in New Zealand, the United States, France, Great Britain, Spain, Italy, Argentina, and Australia. The fronds of wakame are quite wide but this makes it a very versatile vegetable as it can be used in soups, salads or pasta.
Kombu (昆布 in Japanese, and 海带 in Chinese, Saccharina japonica and others), several Pacific species of kelp, is a very important ingredient in Chinese, Japanese, and Korean cuisines. Kombu is used to flavor broths and stews (especially dashi), as a savory garnish (tororo konbu) for rice and other dishes, as a vegetable, and a primary ingredient in popular snacks (such as tsukudani). Transparent sheets of kelp (oboro konbu) are used as an edible decorative wrapping for rice and other foods. Kombu can be used to soften beans during cooking, and to help convert indigestible sugars and thus reduce flatulence. Because of its high concentration of iodine, brown kelp (Laminaria) has been used to treat goiter, an enlargement of the thyroid gland caused by a lack of iodine, since medieval times.
Dulse - Palmaria palmata, also called dulse, dillisk or dilsk (from Irish/Scottish Gaelic duileasc/duileasg), red dulse, sea lettuce flakes or creathnach, is a red alga (Rhodophyta) previously referred to as Rhodymenia palmata. Palmaria palmata is the only species of Palmaria found on the coast of Atlantic Europe. It is to be found from Portugal to the Baltic coasts also on the coasts of Iceland and the Faroe Islands. It also grows on the shores of Arctic Russia, Arctic Canada, Atlantic Canada, Alaska, Japan and Korea. In Iceland, where it is known as söl, it has been an important source of fibre throughout the centuries and the earliest record of this species is of St Columba's monks harvesting it 1,400 years ago. Like practically all edible seaweeds, Dulse is a good source of minerals and vitamins compared with other vegetables, contains all trace elements needed by humans, and has a high protein content. Dulse is commonly used in Ireland, Iceland, Atlantic Canada and the Northeast United States as food and medicine. It can be found in many health food stores or fish markets and can be ordered directly from local distributors. In Ballycastle, Northern Ireland, it is traditionally sold at the Ould Lammas Fair.
Badderlocks - Alaria esculenta also known as dabberlocks , or winged kelp, is a traditional food along the coasts of the far north Atlantic Ocean. It may be eaten fresh or cooked in Greenland, Iceland, Scotland and Ireland. It is the only one of twelve species of Alaria to occur in both Ireland and in the British Isles.
Arame (荒布, Eisenia bicyclis, syn. Ecklonia bicyclis), is a species of kelp best known for its use in Japanese cuisine. It is limited in distribution to temperate Pacific ocean waters, mostly around Japan, although it is deliberately cultured elsewhere, including South Korea. It is one of many species of seaweed used in Asian cuisine. Usually purchased in a dried state, it is reconstituted quickly, taking about five minutes. Arame comes in dark brown strands, has a mild, semi-sweet flavor, and a firm texture. Its mild flavor makes it adaptable to many uses. Arame is high in calcium, iodine, iron, magnesium, and vitamin A as well as being a dietary source of many other minerals. It contains the storage polysaccharide laminarin and the tripeptide eisenin, a peptide with immunological activity.
Laver (Porphyra laciniata/ Porphyra umbilicalis) Laverbread or ‘bara lawr’ in Welsh is an important traditional food of historical value. It is a national delicacy made from seaweed called laver, which is washed and then cooked to a soft greenish black paste. This does not sound too appetising, but on buttered wholewheat toast with mussels or oysters and a sprinkling of malt vinegar or lemon juice, it is unsurpassed. It also goes well with cheese! As one of my Welsh friends said "laver is one of the most nutritious varieties of seaweed and it is full of health benefits, lots of minerals and vitamins, low in calories, for us here in Wales it is a superfood!" It should be added that it is also a rare plant source of vitamin B12, and full of iron and iodide. You can get it in cans in Wales, I have no idea whether these are sold outside Wales.
Nori (海苔?) is the Japanese name for edible seaweed species of the red algae genus Porphyra. Porphyra is also called laver in Wales and other English-speaking countries - see above. Nori is familiar in other countries as an ingredient of sushi, being referred to as "nori" (as the Japanese do) or simply as seaweed. Finished products are made by a shredding and rack-drying process that resembles papermaking.
Hijiki (ヒジキ, 鹿尾菜 or 羊栖菜 hijiki?) (Sargassum fusiforme, syn. Hizikia fusiformis) is a brown sea vegetable growing wild on rocky coastlines around Japan, Korea, and China. It has been a part of the Japanese diet for centuries. Hijiki is rich in dietary fibre and essential minerals such as calcium, iron, and magnesium. According to Japanese folklore, hijiki "aids health and beauty, and thick, black, lustrous hair is connected to regular consumption of small amounts of hijiki"! Hijiki has been sold in United Kingdom natural products stores for 30 years and hijiki's culinary uses have been adopted in North America. It contains trace amounts of arsenic, but you need to read the section on arsenic before you panic.
Bladderwrack (Fucus vesiculosus)
Carola (various species of Callophyllis)
Carrageen moss (Mastocarpus stellatus)
Cochayuyo (Durvillaea antarctica)
Ecklonia cava (Ecklonia cava)
Irish moss (Chondrus crispus)
Mozuku (Cladosiphon okamuranus)
* Oarweed (Laminaria digitata)
Sea grapes or green caviar (Caulerpa lentillifera)
Sea lettuce (various species of the genus Ulva)
* Great care needs to be taken with Oarweed. It is used in Japan and China for making dashi, a soup stock, and for other culinary purposes, but it is essential you know how to prepare it. Historically, the dried stalks of L digitata, called sea-tangle tents were used for inducing labour. In other words, it can cause miscarriages, if wrongly prepared.
Cultivation - Sea-farmers have grown seaweeds, like wakame in Japan, for hundreds if not thousands of years.
Japan is now having problems with its supply due to thoughtless selfish pollution by its industrial giants, however, sources of clean fresh unpolluted seaweed do still exist in Japan. The countries that appear to be in a prime position in the future to help us eat healthily, are all those that did their level best not to pollute, with strong uncorrupted governments and a responsible ecologically minded unselfish population, who took the measures needed to control industry - if not ban it altogether in sensitive areas.
The west coast of Scotland, for example, particularly the magnificent coastline of the Outer Hebrides already has a very small interest in sustainably harvested seaweed. Wakame has also been cultivated since 1983 in France, in sea fields established in Brittany.
Wild grown wakame is also harvested in Tasmania, Australia and also sustainably hand-harvested from the waters of Foveaux Strait in Southland, New Zealand and freeze-dried for retail and use in a range of products.
Infestation of non native species - In some regions of the world, Wakame in particular has been nominated as 'among 100 of the world's worst invasive species' according to the Global Invasive Species Database, but this could easily be rectified if we ate more of it and they cleaned up their waters so that the seaweed was edible again!
A history of use - Our Neanderthal ancestors thrived on seaweed and marine life long before man practised any form of farming. Many of the migration routes of early man were along coasts because our ancestors ate fish, shellfish and seaweed all of which contain enough nutrients to sustain a human.
The value of seaweed as fertiliser and soil enricher was also soon realised by early farmers. The Celtic peoples put seaweed on their vegetable beds by the sea, as a form of fertiliser and as a consequence their potatoes and root vegetables not only grew well but also absorbed many of the essential minerals and vitamins in the plant - most notably iodide.
The beauty of the seaweed forests - Seaweeds may be thought of as the trees of the sea. They are as beautiful and diverse as corals. There is a marvellous ecologically balanced community of little organisms often found with seaweed. Thus if we take the very common seaweed bladderwrack, it provides a shelter for the tube worm Spirorbis spirorbis, herbivorous isopods, such as Idotea and surface grazing snails such as Littorina obtusata. It has its own chemical defences against the marine herbivorous snail Littorina littorea and sea urchins such as Arbacia punctulata. The balance that has been achieved here is wondrous and fascinating to behold, a system of great beauty to be revered and cherished.
Exploitation - There is a danger that those countries known for wasting and plundering the resources of their own and other countries, may start to try to exploit foods like these.
Strong governmental action will be needed - possibly even defensive action in the future to protect the vegetables of the sea and those who understand their value.
It is not difficult to imagine the same sort of wholesale deforestation of the seas that has taken place of the land unless those who preserve take action against those who squander, plunder and destroy. Being a 'wealthy nation' is nothing to be proud of if the wealth was achieved by trashing your own country with chemicals, and stealing from others, including those still to be born.
In 2004, scientists reported a loss in sugar kelp at 80% of the locations in the Skagerrak and 40% of the locations at the West coast of Norway.
S. latissima is an ecologically important system. It is a primary producer, delivering plant material to the coastal food web. They also serve as a habitat for animals, resulting in a high biodiversity. Fish, shellfish and other animals get food and hiding places within these forests.
Health risks - Do not use supplements, do not use 'enhanced' products, and do not use seaweed from polluted areas [more details below]. Thyroid dysfunction has resulted from this form of overdose and toxification. Be extremely careful about seaweed if you are pregnant.
We report a series of cases of thyroid dysfunction in adults associated with ingestion of a brand of soy milk manufactured with kombu (seaweed), and a case of hypothyroidism in a neonate whose mother had been drinking this milk. We also report two cases of neonatal hypothyroidism linked to maternal ingestion of seaweed made into soup. These products were found to contain high levels of iodine. Despite increasing awareness of iodine deficiency, the potential for iodine toxicity, particularly from sources such as seaweed, is less well recognised.
- PMID: 20919974
manipulated products are the greatest risk.
Seaweeds are extraordinarily versatile as vegetables. If we take Dulse as an example, fresh dulse can be eaten directly off the rocks before sun-drying. Sun-dried dulse, however, can be eaten as is as a snack, or it can be pan-fried quickly into chips, baked in the oven covered with cheese, with salsa, or used in soups, chowders, sandwiches and salads, or added to bread/pizza dough. Finely diced, it can be used as a flavour enhancer in meat dishes, such as chili.
Most seaweed comes dried and in some cases all you need to do is soak it. It is better to soak it in mineral or spring water, as tap water often has a 'taste' to it that can spoil the delicate flavour of some of the seaweeds. Where the seaweed needs cooking, it rarely needs long, although the Japanese cook some seaweed for some time to extract the broth for use in soups and stews.
Sea weed goes extremely well with fish, as one would expect.
All fish benefit from having seaweed as an accompaniment, but delicately flavoured fish such as sand dabs, sea bass, plaice, sole and so on especially benefit.
Where the fish has a more robust flavour or where shellfish are used such as clams, crab or tuna, then a more robust sauce can be made with the seaweed, by adding ingredients to it.
The seaweed can be kept luke warm and served as a salad, for example, with sesame oil and toasted sesame seeds, or there are some delicious combinations that can be achieved with 'earth grown' vegetables. Strips of steamed carrot not only look good with sea weed but taste delicious. The combination of sweet carrot and salty seaweed go well together.
Mange touts also go well with seaweed, as long as they are left crunchy. A combination of water chestnuts [sliced] or bamboo shoots, mangetouts and seaweed with a little soy sauce [not too much as both are salty] sesame oil and one teaspoon of sugar or some orange juice [with optionally the grated rind of the orange] make a delicious chinese style accompaniment to sea bass.
Seaweed also goes well in pasta. Squid rings, garlic, seaweed and tagliatelle is delicious and you can use a light olive oil as a dressing with just a squeeze of lemon.
Noodles, scallops [very lightly fried], olive oil, seaweed, a dash of white wine and a little freshly made pesto, are also delicious. Sea weed adds saltiness and softness to the dish.
Where the fish is a little more robust, as is the case with tuna for example, the tuna can be grilled or barbecued and then served with a side accompaniment of pasta. Seaweed, spaghetti, black olives [stoned and not salted], olive oil, and skinned fresh tomatoes are a delicious accompaniment.
Sea weed goes extraordinarily well as a topping on polenta. The polenta should be cooked as normal with a little butter and parmesan cheese added at the end of cooking. The seaweed is then placed on top. In the photo you see an unusual variation on this theme - pork and seaweed sausages with polenta, a really delicious alternative to bangers and mash!
Seaweed mixed with spinach and served with poached eggs and a simple cream sauce [butter, cream, egg yolks, in a bain marie] sprinkled with nutmeg or topped with lumpfish roe [mock caviar] is a wonderful combination based on the egg florentine recipe. If you are very very hungry then this can be eaten with triangles of wholewheat toast or pasta.
Both the Japanese and the Chinese have created a whole cuisine based on the use of various seaweeds in soups.
Usually miso broth is used as a base and then seaweed and other vegetables are added.
But in looking at the cuisine of these countries we must not forget the cuisine of Vietnam or Thailand, as they too incorporate seaweed in their diet in many imaginative ways.
Seaweed [Laverbread] and lemon balls
- 1 medium chopped onion, peeled and finely chopped
- 2 clove(s) garlic, peeled and crushed
- 1 dessertspoon of vegetable oil
- 100 gram(s) (4oz) fresh brown breadcrumbs
- 2 heaped tbsp fresh or canned laverbread
- Rind of 1 lemon
- 15 mls fresh mint, chopped
- Heat the oil in a heavy based frying pan and cook the onion and garlic over a medium heat until soft.
- Remove from the heat and add the remaining ingredients.
- Mix well and season with freshly ground pepper and a little sea salt - not too much as the laverbread can be salty.
- Form the mixture into small balls. It should make about 10 - and place on a greased baking tray.
- Cook in the oven for 10 minutes or until golden brown and crisp. Oven temperature 180C/350F/gas mark 4
- VARIATION - Serve as a stuffing with roast Welsh lamb - you may cook it alongside the joint for the last 20 minutes. You could use to stuff a boned and rolled shoulder of Welsh lamb or you could use the mixture to fill large open flat mushrooms and cook on a baking tray for 20 minutes. Top with some blue cheese and serve with a crisp salad.
- AND ANOTHER THING... Laverbread is traditionally mixed with oatmeal to give a firmer texture and fried in bacon fat to make a crisp cake for a Welsh breakfast.
Sea weeds usually contain most of the essential minerals - Copper, Iodide, Iron, Potassium, Manganese, Sodium and so on. They may also contain a number of very key vitamins – Vitamins A, B1, B12, B2, and C. They are an extremely key source of Iodide, a mineral lacking in many people’s diets and the source of thyroid diseases.
In order to provide an example we will use Fucus vesiculosus, known by the common name bladder wrack or bladderwrack. It was the original source of iodine, discovered in 1811, and was used extensively to treat goitre, a swelling of the thyroid gland related to iodine deficiency. Fucus vesiculosus is the most common algae on the shores of the British Isles. It has been recorded from the Atlantic shores of Europe, Northern Russia, the Baltic Sea, Greenland, Azores, Canary Islands, Morocco and Madeira. It is also found on the Atlantic coast of North America from Ellesmere Island, Hudson Bay to North Carolina. The species is especially common on sheltered shores from the middle littoral to lower intertidal levels. The following is Dr Duke’s analysis
- Important trace minerals are shown in YELLOW
- Minerals are shown in BLUE
- Toxins are shown in RED
- Vitamins are shiown in GREEN
Chemicals in: Fucus vesiculosus L. -- Bladderwrack, Kelp
ALUMINUM 631 ppm;
ARSENIC 68 ppm;
ASCORBIC-ACID 258 ppm;
BETA-CAROTENE 39.6 ppm;
BROMINE 150 ppm;
CALCIUM 30,400 ppm;
CARBOHYDRATES 655,000 ppm;
CHROMIUM 7 ppm;
COBALT 16 ppm;
FAT 30,000 ppm;
FIBER 98,000 ppm;
FUCINIC-ACID 1,000 ppm;
FUCOIDIN 600,000 ppm;
FUCOSE 240,000 ppm;
IODINE 300 - 5,400 ppm
IRON 150 ppm;
KILOCALORIES 2,490 /kg;
LEAD 91 ppm;
MAGNESIUM 8,670 ppm;
MANGANESE 76 ppm;
MERCURY 40 ppm;
PHOSPHORUS 2,490 ppm;
POTASSIUM 21,100 ppm;
PROTEIN 65,000 ppm;
SILICON 76 ppm;
SODIUM 56,100 ppm;
TIN 24 ppm;
ZINC 6 ppm;
 Alginic acid - is said to be an Antacid; Antiesophagitic; Antipeptic; Antiulcer; and Antiviral;
 β-Sitosterol is one of several phytosterols (plant sterols) with chemical structures similar to that of cholesterol. In effect it is a key body repair chemical - see the cholesterol entry
 Lauric acid - is said to be Antibacterial; Antioxidant IC71=60; Antiviral; Candidicide; COX-1-Inhibitor IC40=100; COX-2-Inhibitor IC20=100; Hypercholesterolemic
 Lutein - is said to be Antiatherosclerotic; Anticancer (Breast); Antimaculitic; Antinyctalopic; Antioxidant; Antiproliferant; Antiradicular; Antiretinitic Optometry; Antitumor (Breast); Antitumor (Colon); Colorant; Prooxidant 5-40 ug/g; Quinone-Reductase-Inducer 2.5 ug; Retinoprotectant Optometry; Ubiquiot
 Myristic acid - is said to be Antioxidant IC71=60; Cancer-Preventive; Cosmetic; Hypercholesterolemic; Lubricant; Nematicide
 N-Hentriacontane - is said to be Antiinflammatory; Cosmetic; Diuretic
Please refer to the Dr Duke database for a full list of all activity.
An extra note
Dr Duke is based in the USA. As can be seen not only are there many essential minerals in this list but some rather key poisonous ones - like Mercury and Lead. These are indicators of pollution. In effect, wherever Dr Duke gathered his seaweed from is polluted and the fish and seaweed are toxic as a consequence.
It is also clear from the following research paper that you should never gather seaweed living or dying and on the beach, near human habitation, for the simple reason it may be full of human pathogens.
The revised Bathing Water Directive (rBWD) introduces more stringent standards for microbial water quality and promotes more pro-active management of the beach environment through the production of a bathing water profile (BWP).
The aim of this study was to determine whether living seaweeds in the littoral zone are colonised by faecal indicator organisms (FIOs), and to quantify the survival dynamics of waterborne Escherichia coli in microcosms containing senescing seaweeds. Living seaweed (Fucus spiralis) was not associated with FIO colonisation, although could be providing a protected environment in the underlying sand. Senescing seaweeds enhanced waterborne E. coli survival compared to plastic debris, with the brown seaweed Laminaria saccharina facilitating greater E. coli persistence than either Chondrus crispus or Ulva lactuca. This has important implications for FIO survival on bathing beaches as the majority of beach-cast biomass is composed of brown seaweeds, which could support significant levels of FIOs. PMID: 24878304
and in case you think I have somehow singled out the USA, here is another paper.
Total arsenic, inorganic arsenic, lead and cadmium contents were determined in 112 samples of seaweed preparations sold in Spain (seaweed packed in plastic or cardboard box, seaweed in the form of tablets and concentrates, foods containing seaweed, and canned seaweed). …For all the contaminants there were failures to comply with legislated values. In particular, all the samples of Hizikia fusiforme exceeded the inorganic As limit established in some countries, and a considerable number of species exceeded the Cd limit set by international regulations. PMID: 16901603
- Anti-diabetic effects of Caulerpa lentillifera: stimulation of insulin secretion in pancreatic β-cells and enhancement of glucose uptake in adipocytes 016981
- Antiprotozoal activities of organic extracts from French marine seaweeds 016968
- Bioavailability of seaweed iodine in human beings 016979
- Brown rice and seaweed 007176
- Chilean edible sea macroalgae as sources of dietary fiber 016971
- Dietary seaweed modifies estrogen and phytoestrogen metabolism in healthy postmenopausal women 016976
- Dr Duke's list of aluminium chelating plants 017803
- Dr Duke's list of Medicinal Plants with Tranquilizer activity of high potency 018140
- Dr Duke's list of mercury chelating plants 017825
- Dr Duke's list of Plants and chemicals with AntiGERD activity 020765
- Dr Duke's list of Plants containing SELENIUM 020550
- Dr Duke's list of Plants with Antianorectic activity 018409
- Dr Duke's list of Plants with Anticancer (breast) activity 018453
- Dr Duke's list of Plants with Anticephalagic activity 018363
- Dr Duke's list of Plants with Anticfs activity 018365
- Dr Duke's list of Plants with Antidote (Mercury) activity 018376
- Dr Duke's list of Plants with AntiLyme activity 018380
- Dr Duke's list of Plants with AntiPMS Activity 018419
- Dr Duke's plants to help with acid reflux 010317
- Dr Duke’s list of Plants with Antifibromyalgic Activity of high chemical content 023645
- Ecklonia cava promotes hair growth. 016985
- Entry Inhibition of Influenza Viruses with High Mannose Binding Lectin ESA-2 from the Red Alga Eucheuma serra through the Recognition of Viral Hemagglutinin 016984
- Enzyme-assisted extraction of bioactive material from Chondrus crispus and Codium fragile and its effect on herpes simplex virus (HSV-1). 016974
- Floridoside extracted from the red alga Mastocarpus stellatus is a potent activator of the classical complement pathway 016969
- High iron content and bioavailability in humans from four species of marine algae 016982
- Kelpie Seaweed ale 016965
- Low-level seaweed supplementation improves iodine status in iodine-insufficient women 016975
- Mrs Grieve on Agar-Agar 020498
- Neuroprotective effects of the cultivated Chondrus crispus in a C. elegans model of Parkinson's disease. 016973
- Nutritional analysis of Vietnamese seaweeds for food and medicine 022701
- Polyphenols and heart disease 005617
- Seaweed and plant infections 016970
- Seaweed and soy: companion foods in Asian cuisine and their effects on thyroid function in American women 016977
- Suppression of 125I-uptake in mouse thyroid by seaweed feeding: possible preventative effect of dietary seaweed on internal radiation injury of the thyroid by radioactive iodine 016978
- Vitamin B12 and seaweed 007178