What does the word seaweed make you think of? If your answer is slimy, swirling kelp in a bay, think again. Sea vegetables can add a delicious and super nutritious punch to plenty of your favorite dishes.
Why eat sea vegetables? They're loaded with dietary fiber and chlorophyll — making them a super high source of antioxidants. That salty flavor comes from a balanced combination of many naturally occurring ocean minerals that are extremely beneficial to your body.
Here's a breakdown of a few of the more common sea vegetables and how you can eat them.
Agar Agar may sound foreign, but you've probably been eating it for years as a thickener in many store-bought foods like pudding. It is a slightly opaque flake that thickens when dissolved in hot water, has no flavor and is colorless. It can be used in place of conventional gelatin in pie fillings, jelly or pudding.
Arame looks a little like dried, wiggly black noodles but it softens when soaked in warm water for 10 to 15 minutes. Arame has a mild and slightly sweet flavor, and can be tossed into stir-fries, omelets or salads.
Dulse is the reddish-brown sea vegetable that can be found as the whole leaf, or ground into a powder. This one is chewier than some of the others (which is why some prefer to sprinkle the powdered version instead) but is delicious right out of the package or even fried up like bacon. Think vegetarian BLT!
Kombu is thick like cardboard, packaged in full sheets or strips, and is generally added in right at the beginning when cooking rice, soups, or beans. Just a 2-inch square of kombu helps make beans more digestible.
Nori is the most common of sea vegetables. It's the paper-thin sheet used for sushi rolls and also now popular toasted, salted and packaged as a nutritious stand-alone snack. It can also be sprinkled (just toast it and then crush it into flakes) onto rice, quinoa, salad or casseroles.
Wakame is a tender sea vegetable that increases greatly in size (up to seven times its original volume) after a brief 10-minute soak in warm water. Once cooked, wakame becomes melt-in-your-mouth tender. It can also be eaten raw as a snack. It's also excellent sprinkled on salads, soups, or steamed with other cooked vegetables.
Photo credit: Stacy Spensley on Flickr