The popularity of seaweed – a staple part of the diet in Japan & China with more than 170,000 tons of it being consumed each year - is on the up.
Seven out of the worlds ten top restaurants feature seaweed on the menu, including the Danish eatery Noma - 2nd year in a row winner of the San Pellegrino survey of the 50 world’s top restaurants - & its use by top chefs is raising its profile. The Greenhouse in Mayfair & L’Enclume in Cumbria both include seaweed.
Heston Blumenthal has long been singing the praises of seaweed recently calling for it to be “taken more seriously”. One of his creations for the Waitrose supermarket chain - a steak, ale and kombu pie – is said by them to be one of its most popular ‘ready meals’.
London restaurateur Aldo Zilli says that “Seaweed has had a bad name, because it is wild and people do not want to eat something called a weed, but it is under-rated and very versatile.”
British producers of seaweed who are mainly located round the islands in Scotland & Ireland are delighted at the prospect of growing sales & the hope that it might become popular for use in the home kitchen as well as restaurant dining.
The most commonly eaten red seaweed – Nori – has a world market value of over $1bn but at the moment less than 100 tons is consumed in Europe & a third of that by the French.
Around 650 varieties of edible seaweed grow along the 11.000 mile coastline of Britain. Little used on the whole, some parts of the country have been collecting it from the shoreline for centuries. Wales, for example has been cultivating laver since the 17th century.
The salty flavour of the algae has been likened to samphire – another up & rising culinary star. However the benefits of eating seaweed are not confined to its flavour or culinary uses. Seaweed helps lower the levels of cholesterol & reduce blood pressure. It tends to be high in protein & low in fat as well as being a rich source of minerals & vitamins. Kilo for kilo it contains more iron than sirloin steak, more calcium than cheese & more fibre than bananas or prunes.
More information about the health giving properties of seaweed & some ways to use it at home will appear in another article in the near future, so if you’re interested in learning more about seaweed check back soon!