Beach Bounty: Seaweed a healthy addition to the bowl or the bath

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My daughter’s eyes flare open like she's seen a ghost.
"It's okay honey, it's me mom."
I quickly pull the rubber octopus from my shoulders and smooth down the teased  towering green hairdo. She looks relieved. As a wee tot she had a frightening  encounter with Disney's version of Ursula the Sea Witch from The Little  Mermaid.
"Sorry, honey - just getting in the spirit..."
"Aren't you taking this whole seaweed thing a bit far?" questions my husband.

miso soupI'm just enthusiastic about seaweed: cooking it, collecting it, and sharing it.  Seaweed adds interesting flavor and texture to food. It has great nutritional value,  and what you can't eat is great in a bath or as fodder for the garden.

Seaweed is heralded as a super food today, but ancient people knew of its  great value. It was traded and passed along to inland cousins as well. Modern  people have fallen away from the extensive use our coastal ancestors once put  seaweed to as a protein staple, medicine, and fertilizer for row crops. Today,  commercial processers turn seaweed into industrial food binders that make ice  cream smooth, cosmetics creamy, and turn it into synthetic fertilizers.

Fresh dried seaweed can be bought in many specialty shops for use with sushi  or as savory snacks, but there is nothing like raw, wild seaweed if you can get  it. See “A Seaweed Story: Harvesting Sea Vegetables” for how to gather your  own. If you're not a hunter-gatherer, or live too far inland, seaweed can be found  in natural food markets or online. Remember to support your local wild crafters  if you can and read the labels - imported seaweed does not always include  preservatives or additive information.

In the Kitchen: Remember to always rinse your seaweed multiple times in fresh  water before use. The simplest way to cook seaweed is to throw it into whatever  you are cooking, especially soups. Kombu is superb added to beans. It thickens  the broth and adds a subtle saltiness without toughening the beans like table salt  does. Let it simmer, then you can take it out, chop it up, and add it back in, or  even rinse it, dehydrate, and reuse. Use one or two pieces a few inches long for  one pot of beans or soup; any type of seaweed will do.

Nori is one of the most delicate and delectable seaweeds. Lay it out in a toaster  oven or bake in a pan to toast it. Spritz with Tamari or Bragg’s Liquid Aminos and  crumble it onto nuts or popcorn. Combine with sesame seeds to make Gomasio (seaweed recipes here)  then sprinkle on everything you would normally use salt for  another way to introduce seaweed into your diet.

Dulse, which is more common on the Atlantic, can also be dried and crumbled.  Its red color adds pizzazz to simple broths and it is divine in a white miso, ginger,  and dulse soup. Seaweed is excellent at restoring the body’s depleted minerals.

Many people who have experienced salt cravings will feel satiated if they add  a sprinkle of Dulse or Nori to their food. It’s not sodium (salt), but rather vital  potassium, but your taste buds can’t tell the difference.

In the Bath: Leftover fresh seaweed is great in the bath. Anything you find fresh  at the ocean will do, but especially Turkish Towel, a variety that is rough and  wide like a washcloth. Just throw it into your bathwater (or place in a net bag  first, if you prefer). The seaweed can be re-used by dehydrating it after use.

In the Garden: Seaweed is a tonic for the soil as well. Any variety, even those  washed up on the shore, will do. Ring seaweed around fruit trees as a "necklace"  and cover with a bit of soil and water. It can also be added straight to compost.  Seaweed in the garden does not add salt to the soil and rinsing is unnecessary.

The steaming pot of seaweed soup has made my Sea Witch false eyelashes  stick together. "Mmmm, smells good mom," I hear my daughter say. "By the way,  nice outfit." She loves seaweed too.

- Heidi Lewis


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