Seaweeds are the oldest family of plants on earth, enjoyed daily as a staple and healing food in many coastal parts of the world. They are rich in minerals, trace elements, vitamins, fiber, enzymes, and high-quality protein. The four varieties described below are sourced from Maine Seaweed and available in our West End Bulk Department.
Maine Seaweed is a family-owned business that specializes in high-quality, hand-harvested seaweed foraged from the Gulf of Maine. Maine Seaweed’s owner and operator, Larch Hanson, has harvested seaweed for over four decades within a five-mile radius of his seaside home on Gouldsboro Bay. The Gulf of Maine is an exceptional place for seaweed harvesting because it’s an enclosed ecosystem, safe from the pollutants in the greater Atlantic — most of the Gulf is ringed by mainland, and the remaining open area is protected by underwater mountain ranges 200 miles offshore.
Alaria (Alaria esculenta)
Alaria is similar to wakame; it is the standard sea vegetable for miso soup. Alaria grows 6 to 12 feet long, is delicate, yet strong, and thrives in the ever-changing surf. Pre-soaking alaria for at least an hour, until the midrib is thoroughly rehydrated, is a good way of tenderizing it. Save the soaking water — it contains minerals and can be used for cooking. Simmer for 20-40 minutes, then add sliced vegetables. Alaria is delicious when cooked with rice, barley, or millet, and when cooked with beans it will impart a rich “gravy” texture and help make the beans more digestible.
Digitata (Laminaria digitata)
Digitata is similar to kombu and may be substituted into any recipe calling for it. Digitata grows in the most turbulent waters, making harvest quite difficult. It’s nutrient-dense, with the highest amount of iodine of any seaweed, and contains natural sugar and glutamic acid that impart an umami-rich flavor. Reconstituted and cooked for fifteen minutes, digitata becomes softer and behaves more like a vegetable. Cooked for an hour or more, digitata dissolves and creates a delicious creamy soup stock that the Japanese call dashi — just add ginger and tamari.
Dulse (Palmaria palmata)
Dulse is a favorite because it is naturally tender and can be eaten straight from the bag. It makes a colorful addition to salads and soups. You can even use it in place of bacon on a BLT — just pan-fry or bake for a few minutes to crisp it up first. Stir-frying with dulse is easy too; just sprinkle on some chopped dulse a few minutes before the stir-fry is done.
Kelp (Saccharina latissima)
The life of a kelp plant is spent in a tidal flow that reverses direction every six hours. Reconstitute kelp by cutting into 4-5 inch lengths and soaking in warm water for 5 to 10 minutes. To use as a vegetable, cut soaked pieces into strips or small squares and add to stir-fries, beans, stews, soups, cooked grains, or simple noodle dishes flavored with miso or tamari. Kelp may be used as a tenderizer for cooking beans, peas, and lentils — it contains glutamic acid that softens the beans, making them more digestible. Simply add a 4-inch piece of kelp per pound of dried beans and cook until tender. Try it in this kelp with rice recipe.