Neptune's Garden - Vegetables of the Sea

Most folks don't think of turning to the Earth's oceans for vegetables, yet there is a vast source of nutritious food available there that is just now reaching the mainstream diet in the United States - sea vegetables. Sea vegetables, or seaweed are marine algae which are abundant all over the world. You know, those big long things you see washed up on the coast that look like rubber and make great jumpropes when they're still moist. They, and the many other varieties, are among the most ancient life forms on earth and probably were the first life to exist. In many parts of the world, they have been harvested and eaten since long before land-based agriculture. They can be eaten fresh, but most often are granulated or dried and reconstituted while cooking other foods. They add a delicious variation to almost any dish, from rice to stir-fry to soup to popcorn.

Health Benefits of Seaweed
Sea vegetables are virtually fat-free, low calorie and one of the richest sources of minerals in the vegetable kingdom as they have ready access to the abundance of minerals found in the ocean. Nourishment is acquired across the sea vegeable's entire surface through the gentle wave action of underwater currents. Sea water & human blood contain many of the same minerals in very similar concentrations.
Sea vegetables contain high amounts of calcium and phosphorous and are extremely high in magnesium, iron, iodine and sodium. For example, 1/4 cup of cooked hijiki contains over half the calcium found in a cup of milk and more iron than in an egg, important concerns for vegans, those who refrain from eating any animal-based products. They also contain vitamins A, B1, C and E, as well as protein and carbohydrates.

One of seaweed's most prominent health benefits is its ability to remove radioactive strontium and other heavy metals from our bodies. Whole brown seaweeds (not granulated) such as kelp contain alginic acid which binds with the toxins in the intestines rendering them indigestible and carries them out of the system.

At Sundance we carry a wide assortment of bulk and packaged seaweeds. Add a bit of Neptune's garden to your next meal and reap the benefits of these amazing vegetables.

Types of Seaweed
Brown Algae
Arame - A Japanese sea vegetable, with a mild flavor, arame is dried and cut into thin strands, it can be added to soups or served as a vegetable side dish.

Hijiki - Found primarily in the Far East, contains the most calcium of any of the sea vegetables, 1400mg/100gr dry weight (compared to milk with 100mg/100gr.) In its natural state it is very tough; after harvesting it is dried, steamed and dried some more. When cooked, it rehydrates and expands about five times its dry volume.

Kelp - This sea vegetable grows mainly in the north along the Pacific and Atlantic coastlines. The name kelp is European in origin and originally referred to the ash derived from burning brown algae, which was used to produce soap and glass. Most often dried and sold whole, granulated or powdered. It can be sprinkled on foods as a condiment, or whole kelp adds a nice touch to salads or it can be used as a wrap for a variety of fillings.

Kombu - Kombu can be used for soup stock or added to the bottom of a pot of rice or vegetables to help them keep from sticking; added to a pot of beans, kombu helps them cook faster and renders them more digestible due to the high mineral content.

Wakame & Alaria - These seaweeds are similar in characteristics but differ in their habitats. Wakame is collected in the cold waters off the island of Hokaido, Japan and alaria is harvested in North America. Wakame is a good source of protein, iron, calcium, sodium & other minerals and vitamins. Alaria is high in vitamin K and the B-vitamins as well as the minerals iodine and bromine.

Red Algae
Agar-Agar - This is a versatile, tasty gel that will set at room temperature. Its been used for centuries in the home as a mild laxative and as a basic ingredient in a Japanese dessert, kanten. Agar-agar is rich in iodine and trace elements.

Irish Moss - Irish Moss is most often used dried in relishes, breads, soups or fritters. Many people snack on this dried dulse straight out of the bag.

Nori - Unlike other sea vegetables that are collected wild, Japanese nori is cultivated. In Ireland, it is known as sloke and in Scotland and Wales as laver. Gaelic people have long made flat breads from flour and nori, known as laver bread. Its most prominent use is as the wrapping for sushi, although it can be cut into strips, lightly toasted and used as a garnish as well. It is exceptionally high in vitamin A and protein.

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This page built by Ray Neff andDavid ResSeguie Last update: May 23, 1996