12/12/2009

Some types of edible algae

Algae are an incredibly nutritious food source and contain a high concentration of amino acids, vitamins and minerals. (According to my algae cooking guide by √Čric Coisel, Hijiki algae contain up to 34% minerals, Nori up to 31% proteins) However, since they also contain high levels of iodine, they should not be consumed in very large amounts. Algae do not filter water but simply absorb it, so water quality plays an important role when harvesting or cultivating algae. everyone can harvest algae. Unlike mushrooms, very few of them are dangerously poisonous. When cooking, you can use them as a vegetable (whole) or in dried and ground form as seasoning.

Some type that are commonly eaten:

Wakame (Undaria, brown algae)
Kombu / Kelp / Seekohl (Laminaria)
Meersalat (Ulva, green algae)
Nori / Laver (Porphyra, red algae)
Dulse (Palmaria Palmata, red algae)


If you're living in the city, like me, the easiest way to get algae are Asian specialty supermarkets. I've found one that has several dried types of algae, mostly from Japan and Korea. I find it pretty difficult to distinguish one type from the other, as the size and shapes seem to vary according to how they've been dried and cut up. So far, I have tried

Hijiki

hijiki

Quite intense, a little bitter and 'mushroomy' when dry - needs to be soaked only 5 minutes in cold water before cooking.

Wakame

wakame

Salty and chewy when dry, needs to be soaked 30 minutes... the leaves unfold to become quite broad and greenish. Subtle taste and very very yummy! This will definitely be one of my favorites.

Mixed algae salad

mixedalgaesalad

Haven't even started to identify all the different algae in this wild mix. The white, straight strands become see-through and jellyfish-like when soaked. The yellow/white squirly stuff tastes pretty much of nothing but has interesting texture, as does about everything else in here. My verdict: Looks better than it tastes! (Maybe I just need the right dressing)

Nori-Snack

norisnack

This thin sheet of roasted nori is served as a snack. Nori (supposedly a red algae, why is it so green here?) are what's normally used to wrap sushi... this snack is very tasty, a little bit salty and with the distinct taste of sesame oil. Will this be what we're snacking on in the evenings while watching the sunset?

It seems the sea has a lot to offer in terms of vegetables. There's so much still to discover!

Btw, I made a wonderful dish afterwards: fried ricenoodles with Wakame and Hijiki and some ginger. I forgot to take a photo :(

Next I will try to find out more about freshwater algae and other edible freshwater plants. Stay tuned.

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