“Everyone Knows Someone Who Needs This Information!” (TM)
I want to wish everyone a Happy Hanukkah, which begins Friday December 11 at sundown and lasts until December 19 at sundown. I encourage you to learn about Hanukkah in the interest of peaceful co-existence. Please read: Hanukkah – Humanity’s First Defense of Religious Liberty. I am not writing more about Hanukkah now as I am sharing an important series about Iodine and want it to move along as much as possible.
Because I have some unexpected family obligations (due to a death in my new extended family), I may be writing this post in sections, so check back! The post may even end abruptly at times, until I finally finish it.
If you haven’t read the earlier parts of this series, do so right now. You couldn’t spend the time more wisely than to learn about Iodine. It IS that important to your Health. You can’t spend your food money more wisely, either. Read here.
In this edition, let’s learn a bit more about individual seaweeds and I will include at least one recipe. Seaweeds?! I can hear many of you saying “EEEWH!” but, really, they taste wonderful!
Seaweeds and sea vegetables are an important part of any diabetic food plan, although you may not have heard that from your dietician, nutritionist or diabetes educator or physician. Why is that?
Well, Iodine has slipped under the radar; as our consumption of it has fallen over the last 50 years, more “chronic” and acute diseases have risen. Only now are savvy researchers and physicians making the “connection” that our Health is being seriously lost due to iodine deficiency. Of course, doctors in prior centuries understood Iodine’s importance and used it as a universal healing substance, and rightly so.
The longest-lived peoples, like the Okinawans, eat seaweed, sea veggies, ocean fish and shellfish (the only animals having high concentrations of the Iodine you need). The healthiest populations e.g. the Japanese eat plenty of iodine-rich foods, daily, too.
Several of the Amazon tribes in Peru and Ecuador travel 2 months of the year, leaving their mountains to head to the coast where the tribes gather seaweed and return with it to their rainforest home, (where their shaman / doctor uses the seaweed (iodine) to keep them healthy). Now, that’s a commitment, mountainous trekking and walking and hauling for 2 months!
So, let’s learn more about these miraculous plants. All seaweeds are edible, but not all are tasty or have a texture that is soft enough to eat. There is also a seasonality to harvesting seaweed. For example, the best kombu is harvested during the winter, and most of the others are harvested in spring. Some are able to be harvested all year around.
Some species are not cultured and must be gathered from the wild. Others are mari-cultured in shallow seawater bays or deeper ocean settings. Nori, which is used for sushi wrappers, has been cultured for a long time, and is the only seaweed which flourishes in quieter currents. Wakame is more recently being farmed. Other seaweeds need stronger currents to thrive.
Only buy organic seaweeds, as seaweeds take up so much from the water around them. Seaweeds are a low glycemic food, as well as being a pH alkaline food. They have lots of fiber, vitamins and minerals and have no calories. Yes, no calories. As they are a vegetable, they have no cholesterol.
Land foods contain rarely any iodine, which is vital for your metabolism, your weight, your thyroid gland and SO much more!
The amount of iodine put in “iodized” salt or which is in my favorite whole sea salts is NOT enough. The naturally-occurring iodine in sea water is concentrated within the seaweeds and sea veggies, so they become a nutritious source for us and for ocean fish.
And, furthermore, the RDA nutritional daily target for iodine is set too low at .15mg. Research shows that Health requires MUCH more, as the Japanese, Okinawans and others eat that higher amount daily, safely in food. It is important not to eat too much as it is to make sure you do not have too little. Use Japanese and Okinawan food patterns and portions as your guide.
Sea vegetables have been harvested for food and medicine for thousands of years; in fact, early records show the Chinese used aquatic plants for medicinal purposes as early as 3,000 B.C. Wakame has long been an important source of high-quality protein, lipids, minerals (such as calcium), and vitamins A, B1, B2 and C in many Asian food cultures, especially as most Asians have severe lactose intolerance, so dairy calcium sources were never used by them.
This is the most honored of the seaweeds which the Japanese use, as it is the one used to make Dashi, a foundational liquid in all Japanese cooking. The first soaked liquid contains about 60% iodine and when the kombu is used for “second” dashi stock, then the kombu releases much less of its remaining iodine content, but it still has more than most other foods, even at that stage.
Konbu (kombu) grows in the cold currents and is ready to harvest in the winter. It only grows in cooler waters, such as around the island of Hokkaido. In fact, the tastiest kombu comes from the coldest currents. The longest seaweed is Naga Konbu which is grown in Hidaka, a region in Hokkaido, and it can grow naturally to lengths in excess of 20 meters (at least 60 foot strands).
Kombu has glutamic acid for umami (“savory” flavor). 1st and 2nd year kelp is very different nutritionally and in thickness of the leaves. Kombu kelp fronds drop off after its first year, and a new and superior frond grows the second year. Most of the market is cheap first-year kelp, but you will know which is superior 2nd year as it is 5x the price.
The best tasting kombu is Rishiri Konbu which is named for the area it is grown in Hokkaido, Rishiri-tou. The next best is Hidaka Konbu from Hidaka, Hokkaido. The majority of harvested kombu grows in Hokkaido at a length of between 60cm and 2m.
Kombu makes beans more digestible when cooked along with them.
It is sold in plastic packages as dry strips which have a white covering; this is the Umami (the essence of the flavor, which is a “savory” taste).
This seaweed is reconstituted by being soaked, or heated gently in water (it should not be boiled). In addition to being combined with dry tuna shavings to make dashi stock, there is also a tradition of using kombu to wrap around fish in order to impart its flavor on the fish. This technique is called, “Kobujime”.
Kombu itself is a difficult food to digest and must therefore be cooked for a very long time in order for you to be able to eat it. Usually, instead of being eaten in its own right, it is valued for its depth of flavor and nutrition in soups and Japanese stews (nabe). The shavings of konbu, called “Tororu Konbu” are used to flavor tsuyu (a dipping sauce) or applied to rice balls (onigiri).
It is also eaten as tsukudani, a dish where the kombu is boiled for three hours in soy sauce, mirin (Japanese rice wine) and dashi stock OR after cooking, the kombu can also be cut up into small strips then pickled with vegetables.
Continuing on with the article, after a few days’ hiatus …
Also is famous as the wrap around sushi. It is also known as “Laver” in Britain and is used to make Welsh Laver Bread. This seaweed only grows in sheltered, quiet current waters in a similar manner to moss, adhering itself to other objects in the sea. It is now mariculture farmed using nets for it to grow on. It is very important for the waters to be pure, as anything bad in the environment is not flushed away readily. The algae used to make Nori grows on the surface of the sea using huge nets. In fact, 230 square miles of Japan’s coast line is dedicated solely to the production of Nori. Over 300,000 tons of Nori is produced every year. Organic nori is available from the suppliers mentioned in my other articles.
Nori is sold in sheets with a very similar consistency to rice paper and even though its most well-known use is to make sushi rolls (maki-sushi), it can also be eaten as tsukudani. It can be dissolved in water and mixed with kanten (agar-agar, another seaweed) to form a firm gelled shape which is then used as a decoration for sashimi (raw fish).
Nori is lower in iodine, and so it can be just safely eaten in normal quantities without worrying about excessive dietary intake even in the Japanese and Okinawan levels of high iodine intake.
Wakame is a brown algae which grows in the warm currents. Its familiar jade-green color is the result of brief blanching after the fronds are harvested and rinsed. Wakame is sold either fresh (it can be eaten just as it is) or in a dried format. Different parts of the wakame plant are used in different ways. The fronds or leaves (“ha”), rib (“kuki” ) and ruffled, bulbous spiral near the base (“mekabu” ) are all edible. Each is enjoyed for its own distinctive flavor and texture.
To rehydrate this seaweed, it takes awhile and requires lots of water. Using around 1 litre / quart of water per 10g of wakame will give it the space to expand fully in a medium size container.
Wakame is a very versatile seaweed which can be eaten hot in soups, cold in salads, with sashimi or as sunomono (a vinegar based salad type of dish).
Seaweeds are harvested in several seasons, but most are harvested in the spring and summer. The best time to eat wakame is in the spring at the same time as the takenoko (bamboo shoots) are out. A typical, seasonal dish is Wakatake which is the new, bright green wakame and takenoko shoots served together in a clear soup (suimono).
It was only in the 17th century that wakame became available to the commoner Japanese people; prior to that it had been reserved for the nobility. But technology in farming wakame became possible, so more became available.
This is a specific part of the wakame seaweed plant. It is a floral structure just above the holdfast (which must not be harvested). The Mekabu is a curvy, spiral, leafy structure which many people use for its crunchier texture. Mekabu is best eaten with citrus or ginger to complement its exceptional, unique flavor. It may be one of the seaweeds used in the lovely crunchy salad used at sushi bars (which mostly is made in China and has coloring — to try to get the original, quality ingredients to make your own*). Others say that Wakame stems (kukiwame) are included in this salad.
* This sushi salad also may contain agar-agar and clear jellyfish. You can find some product frozen or refrigerated especially in Korean markets, but many of these salads are Chinese, so I won’t buy them due to their polluted waters and chemical dyes. The best sourced pre-made one I know about is: Sushi style seaweed salad
AGAR-AGAR // KANTEN:
This product is made from tegusa seaweed and it is tasteless and is not eaten in its own right. Instead, it is boiled and its extract is used as a gelling agent as a vegetarian option instead of animal-based gelatin. Kanten is rich in fiber but has zero calories and is also believed to help lower cholesterol and blood pressure. You will find many recipes for its use in Macrobiotic cookbooks. The food industry uses agar-agar and carrageenan (another seaweed product) in many foods. Read the labels and you’ll be surprised at how often you have already been eating seaweed!
A black seaweed which is bought dried and needs to be reconstituted in plenty of water for at least an hour. Then, it should be washed thoroughly before use. It develops a stronger flavour being cooked in oil and is served stir-fried and also simmered with carrots or burdock root. It can be stirfiried or simmered with either abura-age (fried tofu) or meats, and then seasoned with soy sauce. Alternatively, it can be mixed with mashed up tofu and other ingredients such as carrot and shiitake mushrooms, and steamed in a pocket of abura-age (like an inari sushi). It will never actually be as soft as other brown or green seaweeds, but it has a pleasant texture when soaked and simmered.
This seaweed is a unique reddish-brown cordovan color because of all the iron it contains. It is a very good source for vegetarians. When dulse is fried, it is a suitable substitute for bacon. Dulse also makes good “chips” for snacks and bar food.
This seaweed is readily available, but I have not used it.
LESSER KNOWN SEAWEEDS:
A dark brown seaweed which is eaten with brown rice vinegar as a starter or as a palate refresher. Mozuku is harvested in the spring and 90% of the mozuku eaten in Japan is produced in the southernmost islands of the Rykuyu Islands (known as “Okinawa”). Research is ongoing to study its anti-cancer properties.
This is a light and delicate seaweed. Ogonori is sold preserved in salt and is refrigerated. This seaweed is only eaten cold, either as a salad vegetable or it is served with sashimi.
This is a bright green seaweed which is usually shredded in tiny pieces to act as a garnish and flavor enhancer e.g. top your steamed brown rice with ao nori, or add it just at serving to soups. I love this one.
Aonori is freshwater seaweed collected from the mouths of rivers just in the estuary where freshwater flows into a bay. It has a pleasant, sea-breeze like aroma and flavor. Aonori is a popular garnish for okonomiyaki (Japanese stuffed pancake) and also yakisoba (stir-fried Japanese noodles).
This is a Hawaiian lacey, purplish colored seaweed which many say is another of the seaweeds used in the famous crunchy seaweed salad used at Japanese restaurants.
ALARIA // SEA PALM:
This seaweed is moderately available. I haven’t worked with it.
It is available off the California coast. I understand it has a mild flavor and has leaves which are indeed a lot like a lettuce leaf.
SEA GRAPES (Caulerpa lentillifera). It is a type of green bulbous seaweed which really look like bunched grapes. It is also known as umibudo and green caviar.
Here is a universal type dressing for seaweed to make a salad.
EM’S SEAWEED SALAD’S DRESSING
You can also get dehydrated, packaged seaweed combinations meant to be used as salad (different than the “crunchy” sushi one described above). This is a leafy salad. You will find these in any good Asian market and in some health stores or use walame or mekabu and kelp following the soaking directions on the packet. Garnish with nori and / or ao nori.
3 T unseasoned, organic brown rice vinegar (get no salt; read labels)
3 T organic soy sauce or tamari
2 T organic sesame oil
1 teaspoon organic brown sugar, or agave nectar (preferred)
1 teaspoon finely grated, washed and peeled fresh ginger root
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic clove
1 T organic sesame seeds
1/2 T ponzu or lime juice
1/2t citric acid (optional)
Optional: Korean kochu-chang spicy sauce OR red pepper flakes
AND / OR a little mirin (Japanese sake cooking wine), Mentaiko – spicy pollack roe
Thinly sliced English cucumber and the prepared seaweeds
Combine ingredients and incorporate into already soaked, prepared seaweed and cucumber. Use wakame or mekabu or packaged dehydrated seaweed salad mix. Top with roe, if using it.
(c)2009 Em at https://diabetesdietdialogue.wordpress.com
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