Kelps are large seaweeds, which grow along the coastlines of the world and there are about 30 different genera. They’re classified as algae. They grow in underwater kelp forests and are known for their high growth rate. They can grow as much as two feet a day.Because kelp derives their nourishment from the oceans and the oceans contain minerals which have been washed from the land thorough the millennia, they’re a rich source of vitamins and minerals.
Kelp is used as a popular salt substitute. It’s available in powder and capsule form.
Kelp is especially high in iodine which is important in thyroid function. It also contains the minerals sodium, iron, phosphorus and calcium. Kelp provides vitamin A, B1, B2, C, D and E as well as amino acids. Because the nutrients are in a natural form they’re easily assimilated.
Kombu is a thick flat seaweed from the genus Laminaria and an important part of Japanese cuisine. Over 90 percent of Japanese kombu is cultivated. In Japan and Korea it’s extensively cultivated on ropes in the sea.
Kombu is eaten in other part of Asia as well as Japan. It can be found fresh, dried, pickled and frozen in many Asian markets. Seaweed farming makes it easy to cultivate and harvest.
Types of kelp used in kombu vary but all part of the plant is used, including the stalks and fronds of the leaves. After it’s harvested and dried naturally it acquires a thin white powder, which is believed to be extremely flavorful. It’s not at all fishy but has a briny almost mushroom-like flavor. The white powder is where most of the flavor is, so don’t wash it off.
According to a study published in Pharmaceutical Biology in April 2010, consumption of Laminaria japonica among rats decreased their “bad” LDL cholesterol levels and increased their “good” HDL cholesterol levels. An unrelated study found in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology in 1996 showed that this was because seaweed decreases the absorption of cholesterol in the small intestine.
Kombu is abundant in nutrients such as calcium, vitamins, and dietary fiber. It is particularly rich in iodine. Iodine is an essential nutrient for maintaining thyroid function and producing thyroid hormones. Iodine deficiency can cause goiters, and, in severe cases, can even lead to hypothyroidism.
Nori is the Japanese name for a dried edible preparation of the seaweed species of the red algae porphyra. The finished product is made by shredding then rack-drying the seaweed in a process resembling papermaking. It’s the best known seaweed in making sushi rolls. The major producers of nori are Japan, China and Korea.
Another name for nori is laver. In addition to being eaten fresh it can be dry roasted and crumbled into soups or salads, and sautéed with vegetables.
The nori or laver grows on thin sheets on rocky shores and varies in color depending on the species and its exposure to sun. Most have a reddish color. It’s best harvested in mid-summer.
Nori is very rich in vitamins and minerals. Especially iodine — but also contains A, B1, B2, B6, niacin, and C. And it is also known to help curb the formation of cholesterol deposits in the blood vessels and is high in protein (up to 50% of its dry weight).
Dulse is a red seaweed that grows attached to rocks in the North Atlantic and Northwest Pacific. It’s commonly used in Northern Ireland, Iceland and Atlantic Canada as a food and also medicinally.
The best dulse is known to be found in Grand Manan because of the geography of the island. On the western side high cliffs shade the dulse from bright sunlight during the morning. Dulse grows quickly in the summer and the same shores are able to be picked every two weeks.
Sun-dried dulse can be eaten fresh or it can be ground to flakes or a powder. It can be pan fried into delicious chips, baked in the oven and covered with cheese, used in soups or chowders, used in salads, eaten on sandwiches or added to bread or pizza dough.
Dulse cultivated dulse in Nova Scotia and marketed as Sea Parsley and sold fresh in the produce section of stores.Dulse is high in vitamin B6, B12, iron, potassium and protein but low in sodium.
Dulse is packed with valuable minerals, including iron and potassium. A 3.5-ounce serving of fresh dulse seaweed provides approximately 33 milligrams of iron and 1,720 milligrams of potassium, which is more than 100 percent of the daily values set by the Food and Drug Administration based on a 2,000-calorie-a-day diet.
Arame is a brown stringy seaweed. It’s been a traditional part of the Japanese diet since ancient times.
When introducing seaweed into the diet, arame is a good choice because of its mild taste. It blends well with other flavors. It can be sautéed, steamed, added to soups or eaten in salads.
Arame is a rich source of iron, calcium, zinc and iodine. It’s also a good source of Lignans, which helps to fight cancer. It also contains sodium and should be avoided by those on a sodium restricted diet although wakame has the highest sodium content of the seaweeds while laver and kelp have somewhat less.
Wakame is another edible seaweed. Sea-farmers in Japan and Korea have grown it for hundreds of years. It has a subtle sweet flavor and most often served in soups or salads.
The seaweed is thin and stingy and has a deep green color. It’s commonly used in Japanese cuisine and is used in making miso soup or seaweed salad.
Wakame can be used to roll sushi but it’s usually sold dried. It can be found fresh in a refrigerated sealed package. When in the refrigerated form it’s preserved with sea salt and partially dry but moist to the touch.