Sea vegetable is one of the many terms that’s used to name the seaweeds that are harvested for culinary purposes. They contain a high amount of fiber and they are mostly a type of algea. These include: multicellular algae: the red algae, green algae, and brown algae.
These are mostly used in the Philippines but due to the global nature of the cuisine practices these days they are now more common in other places such as Texas and the southern US.
- -They are mostly used in Asian cuisine
- Some classify them as vegetables and other as weeds
- They are packed with nutrients coming from the seabed
The buying guide for these weeds isn’t easy since there are many different varieties and you should consider each of them individually.
-Nori is a green weed that should be kept dry and hard and if you notice that it isn’t dry, hard or green it hasn’t been stored properly.
-Kombu is a member of kelp family and it’s also sold dry and in strips. There’s also a powdered version mostly used to make Japanese tea
-Wakame is a costal weed found around the world and it should be selected for its fresh green color.
Production & Farming in Texas
There is a Texas aquaculture association which is mostly dedicated to helping Texan farmers grow shrimp. However, a small portion of its work is also about sea weeds which is a much smaller market but one that’’ growing in the Asian community in Texas.
There are a few advantages to producing sea vegetables in this artificial setting. First it makes them available for those who haven’t had a chance to encounter them before and with less overhead costs. Secondly, it’s a way to slower the natural harvest which is damaging to the oceans.
The sea vegetables are produced in greenhouses and they utilize the practices of hydroponic farming which is also an environmentally responsible way to produce vegetables and one that gives farmers more control over their harvest in general.
Austin Sea Veggies is a seaweed farm in Austin TX started by Lewis Wells. Originally he was growing seaweed for scientific purposes.
“My goal is to produce amazing, fresh, healthy local seafood anywhere in world. I want people to have good food and for us to be able to leave the wild environment alone at the same time.”, says Welles.
There are no pesticides used on these vegetables.
Sea vegetables are produced on everywhere theirs is a coastline and the ability to harvest the weeds from it. Therefore, they are mostly produced on the coastlines and they are mostly produced in the cultures and cuisines that depend on the marine trade for food.
Artificially however, they could be produced everywhere, especially now when there’s a technology needed to do so. The vegetables are still mostly used in Asian cuisine in the context of the US at least.
There are two main steps in packaging and transporting the seaweeds. First of all, they need to be dried and thus made into strips which is how they will be transported and used. These strips or bricks are usually large enough to be moved and cut on the spot.
They are then packed in plastic bags and kept in freezers so that they can be used for a longer period of time.
Sea vegetables are used in a variety of dishes and they provide a savory and deep flavor to them. They are most commonly sold in dried form and add to a variety of dishes including soups, by soaking them in water and letting them release their flavor.
The weeds are a staple of Asian cuisine but there’s no need to not to try them in western dishes as well and to enjoy the mixture and the new dish that comes out of it.
Some of the most commonly consumed varieties include nori (the seaweed used to make sushi), wakame or alaria (the soft, shredded greens often found in miso soup), or black, crunchy hijiki, which adds texture to seaweed salads and stir-fries
A dried sea vegetable is already made for long term storage. A brick or a strip of these weeds should be kept in a plastic bag and in the cold part of the fridge. They can be kept like this for a few weeks even and then they should be taken out a few hours before they are used.
That way the weeds get to regain their qualities before you proceed to actually adding them to your dish.
For the most part there’s no need to cook the sea vegetables at all since they are used in soups and in salads and can be used as such. Other than that there are plenty of cooking options to try out:
Cook alaria for at least 20 minutes in soups or with grains. Add raw arame to salads after soaking. It can also be added to soups or sautéed or braised with other vegetables. Toast dulse in a pan and use it as chips. After rinsing or a short soak, it can be used in salads or sandwiches. It can also be used in soups, although it should not be cooked for more than 5 minutes.
Treat hiziki like arame. Add kelp to simmered dishes. Kelp is most often used in dashi. Wrap sushi with dried nori or dry-roast it and crumble it in soups or rice dishes. It can also be added to stir-fry. Treat wakame like alaria.
Seaweed also contains small amounts of vitamins A, C, E and K, along with folate, zinc, sodium, calcium and magnesium. While it may only contribute to a small percentage of some of the RDIs above, using it as a seasoning once or twice per week can be an easy way to add more nutrients to your diet. The protein present in some seaweeds, such as spirulina and chlorella, contain all of the essential amino acids. This means seaweed can help ensure you get the full range of amino acids. Seaweed can also be a good source of omega-3 fats and vitamin B12