Mention seaweed to many Britons and the usual image that comes to mind is the dark green or black straggly stuff seen on trips to the beach, generally something quite slimy and certainly not the kind of thing one might want to eat.
However, there are many kinds of seaweed and some of these are not just edible, but have great superfood properties.
There are many ways you can consume seaweed. Organic seaweed powder offers one simple way of doing so as an additive to a soup or stew. Alternatively, it can be used instead of another vegetable in a meal. Go to a Chinese supermarket and you’ll find seaweed easily. Here, it is either something to boil up, or even eat on its own as a snack.
Kelp is one of the healthiest kinds of seaweed around. Listing seaweed as a food well worth spending a bit more on for health reasons, Yahoo Money noted both the taste and nutritional virtues of it.
It quoted the chef and cookbook author Stephanie Harris-Uyidi, who said: “Kelp is one of the best natural sources of iodine, where iodine can be used to assist with some thyroid issues. Kelp is also rich in vitamin K and calcium.”
Sea moss is another edible seaweed she recommended, commenting: “Sea moss is low in calories and sugar. It also contains great nutrients such as vitamins B2 and B12, along with calcium and zinc.” The chef also praised sea lettuce as being a valuable source of vitamins A, B and C, and a good source of iron and protein.
All this will seem a far cry from the kind of seaweed normally seen on British beaches. The most common form of this is bladder wrack, but there are some less common types that can be eaten, such as Laver – traditionally used to make Laverbread in Wales.
Kelp also grows in UK waters, and used to do so in vast quantities off the coast of Sussex. A new byelaw has now been passed to ban trawl fishing in the area, which will give it a chance to recover and restore its verdant aquatic carpet.
Not only can a restored kelp forest provide food; it also promotes marine biodiversity and takes more carbon not of the environment. Small wonder, then, that the successful campaign for the Sussex trawl ban was backed not just by MPs, but Sir David Attenborough.
Talking of the environment, new research by the University of California published this month has shown that seaweed is not just beneficial for human diets.
Researchers undertook a five-month experiment in which they added a small amount of seaweed to cattle feed, with the resulting impact on digestive processes leading to an 82 per cent fall in bovine emissions of methane, a notable greenhouse gas.
Of course, vegetarians and vegans might want to see cattle farming disappear entirely, with consumers eschewing meat and dairy products. But the good news is that even as the industry continues with such produce still in demand, its environmental impact can be significantly reduced.
It all goes to show that seaweed is not just green in colour.