Under the Sea

Last summer, I visited Newport, Rhode Island for a week, where Phil and I had a party to celebrate our recent marriage. It's a beautiful town on an island on the North East coast of America filled with history and culture. Probably best known for its mansions and keen sailors, what I love best about visiting Newport in the summertime is the beach. There are two main beaches, with several smaller private beaches dotted around the island. Easton's Beach (aka First Beach) generally gets more crowded and touristy in the summertime, simply because it's the closest one to the center of town. There's a carousel and a small aquarium. Sachuest Beach (aka Second Beach) gets crowded too, but is my favorite because of the softness of the sand on this 1 1/4-mile-long beach and the gentle waves that sometimes have body surfing potential. But if it's one thing I can't stand at the beach (anywhere, not just in Newport), it's SEAWEED, and the waves at both spots are full of the stuff. They have this "red tide" very occasionally, that produces quite the pungent salty smell for miles around. It's this light, feathery red weed - the kind that you'll find in the most intimate of places days after a swim.

Fast forward to now and I don't know what I'd do without sea vegetables in my life. There are certain minerals we know are good for us and that we might be lacking in. For example, calcium, iron, and magnesium. Where I might have immediately associated calcium with milk, iron with red meat, and magnesium with... milk again, now I rely on one single source for all of them: SEAWEED.

If you crave salt, seaweed is going to be your best (healthy) friend. If you're feeling low on energy, seaweed will boost you back up. If you're vegan, seaweed can provide the essential B vitamins you may be lacking. So now can you see why it's a booster food in the Eating For Health™ model?

Today, I made my lunch delicious by having a side of Irish Dulse, which I bought from Seaveg.co.uk (where they handpick their wild seaweeds on the west coast of Ireland). I simply washed and dried the dulse, tossed it with some sesame oil, and topped it with a few pumpkin seeds, some of my homemade sauerkraut, and a squeeze of lemon. This curbed my salt cravings and gave me a boost like no other!

As you can see, dulse is this beautiful red wine color, but unlike the feathery stuff I saw (and smelled) in Newport, this has an almost meaty texture to it, much more substantial than any leafy veg I've had on land. I had my seaweed salad alongside some sauteed onions, garlic, mushrooms, and rainbow chard, and a tasty wedge of goat gouda. Yum!

If you're curious about trying sea vegetables, here's a handy visual guide to help you figure out what's what. After that, I urge you to find the most local wild seaweed you can. Of course, there are plenty of packaged goods on the market from Japan, but because of the long journey they have taken to reach your plate, I'm not so sure they're still as nutrient-dense as they were when they came out of the ocean. Here in the UK, we have SeaVeg.co.uk and Just Seaweed (or learn how to forage your own!). In the US, there's Mendocino Sea Vegetable Company, Ironbound Island Seaweed, and Maine Coast Sea Vegetables.

And what if you hate sushi? How do you eat this stuff? Here are some serving suggestions:

  • Seaweed salad - rinse and dry some seaweed (any variety and combination), chop into fine pieces or strands, and top with chopped cucumber, sesame oil, pumpkin or sunflower seeds, rice vinegar, Bragg's liquid aminos, and some fresh cilantro
  • Miso soup with dulse
  • Stir-fry - mix some chopped seaweed into a veggie stir-fry just before serving
  • Nori chips - munch on some dried nori crisps to combat salty snack cravings
  • Kelp flakes - sprinkle on top of raw or cooked food instead of salt
  • Sauteed greens - mix in some seaweed next time you make some sauteed greens

Not ready to eat it? Try having a seaweed bath - your skin will never feel so smooth! Just make sure you rinse off afterwards with a nice smelling soap :)

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