Seaweed is swimming its way into the mainstream market.
Waitrose has just announced that it will stock fresh seaweed in its stores, while sales of the green stuff soared by 125 per cent after Jamie Oliver claimed it had helped him lose weight.
“Seaweed is one of this year’s biggest trends in veg which we’re seeing on the menus of some of London’s top and most creative restaurants,” says Waitrose product developer, Simona Cohen Vida. “Our customers like to experiment in the kitchen, so we predict that seaweed will be top of the shopping list this spring.”
A staple in our diet in ancient times, seaweed has become popular not just because of its delicious flavour, but because of its many health benefits.
Companies such as the The Cornish Seaweed Company and This Is Seaweed in Ireland are harvesting a variety of seaweeds and related products, including dulse, kelp, carrageen, wakame, sea spaghetti, seaweed salt, and so on.
Not sure what to do with it? How about sea spaghetti pasta with basil pesto? Or dulse and quinoa salad?
You can also cut down on your salt intake by using seaweed salt, a mixture small-flaked dulse, nori and sea greens mixed with Maldon Sea Salt. Pinch and sprinkle on any dish.
A study conducted in 2010 by Scientists at Newcastle University found the superfood can reduce our rate of fat absorption by 75 percent. It is a staple in Japanese cooking, where the obesity rate is about 10 times less than that in America.
Seaweed is also super-rich in iodine, a nutrient not found in many other foods, while some varieties are also high in protein and vitamins A-C.
Five reasons to love seaweed
*You can forage for it – sustainably
*You can find edible seaweed such as the popular ‘sea lettuce’ along our British shores, so this is a great vegetable to start with if you’re planning to try more foraging. Reminscent of a lettuce leaf and quite thin, it’s usually a deep bright green colour. Make sure you gather from a beach with a blue flag and a good rating from the government’s Environment Agency – seaweeds act like sponges, soaking up the ample nutrients found in our oceans. This is why they’re so high in a wide variety of healthy minerals. Unfortunately, they’re not particularly discriminatory about what they absorb.
*It could cure your thyroid problem
Iodine is needed for healthy thyroid function, and seaweed has it in buckets – especially the kombu variety.
*It could feed the planet
There are around 3,500 different types of seaweed. They’re easy to grow (no fertilising or watering needed) and sustainable, too.
You can put seaweed in salads, pastas, desserts… the list is endless. From chocolate jelly with seaweed to bread made with dulce, we’ve got plenty of recipes for you to try.
*It’s been a favourite food for centuries
Seaweed was a major source of food in ancient times, especially in Japan and China. It is recorded that the dried seaweed used to make sushi, nori, was being made in Japan as early as the 700s.