Why is seaweed so nutritious?
Seaweeds contain more Vitamin C than oranges, more Calcium than milk, more Iron than spinach and beef. Seaweed concentrates the naturally occurring trace minerals in ocean water and makes them available to us in dietary form. There are 66 trace minerals in seawater, and seaweed contains all of them. Trace minerals promote healthy thyroid function, prevent cellular damage, strengthen the immune system, and aid in brain development.
Seaweeds are also...
-The best dietary source of iodine
-High in anti-oxidants
-High in Omega-3 Fatty Acids
-Rich in a broad spectrum of vitamins
-A source of beneficial compounds found nowhere else in nature, including Laminarin, Fucoidan, and Algin.
These unique compounds have been found to sooth the gastrointestinal tract, aid in removing heavy metals from the body, and prevent carcinogens from being absorbed by the digestive system.
The American Thyroid Association estimates that more than 12 percent of the U.S. population will develop a thyroid condition during their lifetime, and approximately 40% of the world’s population remains at risk for iodine deficiency.
Women are five to eight times more likely than men to have thyroid problems, and one woman in eight will develop a thyroid disorder during her lifetime.
Are all seaweeds edible?
Most seaweeds are edible, but not all of them are INCR-edible! It’s mostly a question of how palatable, or delicious, any given species is when prepared as food. There are over 10,000 known species of seaweed around the world, and about 250 in the Gulf of Maine. Only 10 of these are commercially harvested in significant quantities, and only 6 of them are commonly used for culinary or medicinal purposes.
There are only two species of seaweed on the coast of Maine that are considered mildly toxic, both in the genus Desmarestia, commonly known as “Sourweed.” They contain sulfuric acid, and are unpalatably sour. If removed from the water and placed in a warm environment, they will begin to release the sulfuric acid stored within their cell walls and be “cooked” alive in their own juices. We once tasted Desmarestia out of curiousity, and it is indeed extremely sour, but to the best of our knowledge no one has ever eaten enough to find out how much is “too much."
Some seaweeds are just too tough, bitter, or oddly textured to be considered food for humans.
What is Seaweed?
Seaweed is Marine MACRO-algae. Other types of algae include marine micro-algae, such as phytoplankton, and freshwater algae like chlorella and spirulina, some of which are also edible. Seaweed is technically not a “Plant” in the scientific sense of the word, though they share many similarities. Seaweed has a "holdfast" in place of roots, a "stipe" instead of a stem, and "fronds" in lieu of leaves. Seaweeds reproduce by spore, and belong to the scientific kingdom of eukaryotic organisms known as "Protista," whose primary membership requirement is that you are neither a plant, animal, or fungi.
What’s the difference between Seaweed and Sea Vegetables?
Mostly the person looking at them. There are various definitions of the word "weed" ranging from, "A plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered." (Ralph Waldo Emerson), to "A plant in the presence of a person with a problem." (Todd Elliott). The term "Sea Vegetable" is just an informal name for the varieties commonly used for culinary purposes.
Is Seaweed harvesting regulated?
Seaweed harvesting is regulated by the Maine Department of Marine Resources, and a license is required to harvest any amount for commercial purposes. Harvesters must report when, where, and how much they harvest, along with the techniques used to harvest, and the end-use of the seaweed. An individual may collect up to 50 wet pounds a day for personal use without a license. Informal boundaries and territories also exist among commercial harvesters to prevent over-harvest and ensure sustainability.
Is Kelp different from other types of seaweed?
Seaweed is divided into families by color. There are brown (phaeophyta), red (rhodophyta), and green (chlorophyta). Kelp is a sub-family of brown seaweeds, and the name is sometimes used to refer to other species of seaweed for marketing purposes that are not true kelps, such as Ascophyllum.
90% of the seaweed harvested in Maine is Rockweed (Ascophyllum nodosum), used primarily as food for plants and animals, which is a relatively separate industry from the harvest of sea vegetables for food.
How long have people been eating seaweed?
There are written records in China of seaweed being used as food and medicine dating to 5,000 years ago, poems in Northern Europe describing Icelandic monks harvesting dulse dating to the 13th century, and records of seaweed being accepted as payment of taxes in 6th Century Japan.
The oldest archeological record of seaweed consumption dates to 14,000 years ago in Chile, South America, where the remains of stone cooking tools contained residues of 20 different species of seaweed at a campsite 40 miles from the ocean. One of these species was a type of Porphyra, the variety of seaweed used to make Nori sheets for sushi.