While we’re huge fans of muddy allotments and home-grown produce at The Pure Package, lately, our attention has turned from land to sea. Though unfamiliar to some Western plates, sea vegetables have been a staple diet in Asia and other coastal regions for centuries.
There’s a plethora of choice when it comes to sea vegetables which can offer fun flavours, nutritional benefits and visual interest. Plus, like most soil-born vegetables, they’re low in calories and high in fibre and so help keep you feeling and looking your best with less bloating, dewy skin and more energy.
What are the health benefits of sea vegetables?
Sea vegetables are laden with goodness, thanks to their marine environment. As a vegetable group, they’re nutritiously superior to their land cousins, and contain a potent range of minerals including calcium, copper, iodine, iron, magnesium, manganese, molybdenum, phosphorus, potassium, selenium and zinc – all essential for enhanced health and vitality.
If you have an underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism), consider sea vegetables such as kelp, which contain particularly high levels of iodine. Sea vegetables, just like all fruit and veg, are also known to have measurable amounts of antioxidants, which can reduce the risk of certain cardiovascular problems.
If you’re new to the world of sea vegetables, we’ve compiled a guide to the tastiest and healthiest produce out there, along with suggestions on how to prepare and cook these marvellous underwater plants.
The dark yellow, forked fronds of channelled wrack can be found at the top of the tide line, commonly known as the ‘splash zone’. Channelled wrack makes for an excellent addition to stir fries and salads. A palate pleaser that’s rich in nutrients, add these to your diet for a boost of selenium and vitamin C.
Despite being the smallest of the edible seaweeds, pepper dulse packs such a powerful punch in terms of taste. In fact, it’s such a gastronomic sensation, it’s earnt the nickname ‘truffle of the sea’. A ruby red alga, pepper dulse has such an intense flavour it’s usually dried, powdered and used as a condiment. In addition to serving as a substitute for black pepper, it’s often used for seasoning raw fish and fish cakes.
You might be familiar with nori – it’s the thin, green sheets of dried seaweed used to wrap sushi. It’s made from different types of sea vegetables which are dried, pressed and rolled to create paper-thin sheets. A distinctive flavour and full of nutrients, many UK supermarkets now stock nori sheets so you can get experimental in the kitchen.
Sea lettuces are a group of edible green algae, widely distributed along the coasts of the world’s oceans. Adored by manatees (sea cows) and marine snails (sea hares), humans have cottoned onto the tangy taste and nutritional benefits of sea lettuces too. High in fibre, minerals and protein, eat sea lettuces raw in salads or cook into soups.
Dillisk is a dark red seaweed that is commonly harvested by hand during the spring and summer months and spread on netting to dry. Popular in Irish coastal communities, it can be added to salads, sandwiches, soups, chowders and bread. Lightly dusted with salt, it also makes a delicious snack. It’s rich in minerals such as potassium, manganese, iron, zinc and calcium.
Sea spaghetti, also known as Thong Weed, can be used just like its pasta namesake – as a base for delicious spaghetti dishes or stir fries. Rich in calcium, zinc, magnesium and iodine, it also contains vitamins A, E, C, B1, B2, B7 and B9. It has a delicious flavour and texture and can be eaten raw. Carbonara sea-style anyone?
As mentioned above, if you have an underactive thyroid, it’s important to incorporate iodine into your diet. Kelp is not only abundant with iodine, it also contains calcium, magnesium, and iron too. What’s not to love? Instead of opting for supplements, experiment with the real thing and add kelp to stir fries, broths and soups.
Where can I buy sea vegetables?
Certain high street supermarkets like Waitrose have introduced sea vegetables into their stores. Alternatively, visit East Asian supermarkets or try specialist online retailers who deliver. We like Clearspring for their range of nori and miso soups and Fine Food Specialist for their exciting range of fresh sea vegetables.
At The Pure Package we love finding new ways to create delicious, exciting and nutritious meals for our clients. Our clients have been enjoying sea vegetables in their dishes for over 10 years. Look out for our delicious Japanese sea spaghetti and mushroom salad, designed by our team of leading chefs and nutritionists.