An Ocean Superfood: Seaweed
Is seaweed a plant or an animal?
Trick question… it’s neither! While most of what we call seaweed does photosynthesize and create energy from sunlight like plants, it’s technically algae and lacks the internal structures like xylem and phloem that characterize plants.
One thing we know for sure is that seaweed is a Superplant of the Sea, and that edible seaweeds are superfoods loaded with nutrition!
Here are 6 surprising facts about this ocean seaweed superfood, a mysterious marine species, plus a recipe to help you sink your teeth into its deliciousness!
- It’s not really a weed! Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “What is a weed? A plant whose virtues have never been discovered.” That’s true for seaweed, to be sure. This superfood from the ocean provides essential food and habitat to marine creatures, it has numerous known health benefits for humans, and scientists continue to study it for all kinds of different reasons.
- It’s the ultimate form of “green energy.” Seaweed biomass has exceptional potential to generate methane and other energy products; and from 1972 to 1986, the U.S. government and private agencies extensively researched the potential of seaweed as alternatives to fossil fuels.
- Seaweed is a giant of the ocean. The largest giant kelp (another word for seaweed) in the North American Pacific Coast was 140 feet long. Beneath the sea, they form towering aquatic forests that rival the redwoods in beauty.
- By farming seaweed, companies like Blue Evolution are sustainably sourcing nutrition from the Pacific Ocean, reducing dependence on freshwater for crop production, and even mitigating ocean acidification. The seaweed can be eaten by people, fed to pigs or cattle in lieu of less sustainable conventional options or used as an ingredient for bio pharma innovations.
- Seaweed is a large form of single-celled algae, which is the simplest type of plant that exists. Its "fronds" look like leaves, its "stalks" look like stems, and some varieties of seaweed even have "holdfasts" that do the work of roots, attaching them to rocks or sea beds. But these special seaweed parts don't do different jobs, like they do in most plants. Seaweed simply absorbs the carbon dioxide, minerals, sunlight and other nutrients it requires from water.
- Seaweed is considered a “sea vegetable” in many cultures and is packed with chlorophyll and dietary fiber, as well as sodium, potassium, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, iron and many other trace minerals naturally found in the ocean. The seaweed used to make sushi is called nori; and a few other types are arame, dulse, kombu, sea palm and wakame.
Try this kid-approved, vegetarian recipe for Easy Seaweed Hand Rolls with Ginger Dipping Sauce, and whip up your own superfood from the sea!
Photo by David Allen Studio
Easy Seaweed Hand Rolls with Ginger Soy Dipping Sauce
- 1 cup brown rice (Using leftover rice is great, and if you’re feeling fancy, add a little rice wine vinegar with a pinch of sugar and salt for flavor.)
- Toasted nori seaweed sheets
- Several kid-friendly vegetarian sushi fillings, such as carrots (raw or steamed), avocado, cream cheese, mushroom, snap peas, red peppers, minced scallions, fresh cucumbers, beets, hard boiled eggs. Cut all vegetables julienned into 1” to 2” matchstick size.
- Take a nori seaweed sheet and thinly press some brown rice on ¾ of the sheet.
- Layer veggies of choice on top of rice on a diagonal (Remember, you’ll be rolling into a cone shape!)
- Place a small amount of rice on the corner where you will roll towards to help the seaweed stick closed when it’s in a cone shape.
- Lift up one corner of seaweed sheet where you have the rice, and roll diagonally towards the center of the sushi paper into a cone. Use a little bit of rice to pinch the end together.
- Dip and enjoy!
Ginger Soy Dipping Sauce
- Combine in a bowl:
- 1 part soy sauce
- 1 part rice wine vinegar
- 2 parts Mirin cooking rice wine
- Grated fresh ginger (or powdered if you don’t have fresh) to taste
Special thanks to Diablo Foods in Lafayette, Calif. and their fabulous sushi makers for allowing us to photograph!