Get your ferments on…with seaweed

“Microscopic organisms – our ancestors and allies – transform food and extend its usefulness.”

from WildFermentation.com

This is the first in a three-part series on seaweeds, fermented foods, and gut health.

Gut health and the importance of the “microbiome“–the billions of microbes that inhabit our digestive tracts (along with other parts of our bodies) and help us digest and draw nourishment from food, strengthen our immune system, and support health in many other ways–have been garnering lots of attention in recent months. One way to nurture our microbiome is by eating cultured, or fermented, foods–vegetables, dairy, even meats that are transformed by communities of beneficial bacteria.

Most of us are familiar with yogurt as a cultured food, but you may be surprised at what other foods are cultured or fermented–and you might find some of your favorites on the list:

beer, wine, chocolate, olives, cheeses, tempeh, mead, sauerkraut, pickles, bread, coffee, tea, kombucha, kefir, kimchi, salami, miso…

Kelp Kraut

Linnette Erhart’s Hot Kraut with ginger, jalapenos, and kelp…YUM!

What’s this got to do with seaweed? We get excited here at Maine Coast Sea Vegetables about sauerkraut at this time of year, as cabbage harvest season has arrived. MCSV founders Linnette and Shep Erhart have a big garden (fed with seaweed, of course!), grow lots of cabbage, and Linnette makes lots of kraut–pink beauties with red and white cabbage, simple white or red cabbage krauts seasoned with caraway seeds or plain. One of the most popular, not surprisingly, is Linnette’s hot kraut with ginger, hot peppers…and MCSV’s kelp. (Learn more about Linnette’s kraut and how she came to loving fermented foods in part two.)

A Stone’s Throw to Health’s yummy Mo’Greens blend.

IMG_0352

Tide Mill Creamery’s Deep Down Dulse, made with red cabbage.

You can use other sea veggies in ferments, too. We’ve also seen (and eaten) krauts made with dulse and sea lettuce, and heard of many more. And there are several Maine small businesses serving up krauts, including varieties with sea veggies–bringing the farm and the sea to the plate. On nearby Mount Desert Island, our friend Sheila of A Stone’s Throw to Health makes all her delicious blends with sea lettuce! Further downeast from us, Tide Mill Farm and Creamery started offering a line of fermented foods last year that includes “Deep Down Dulse,” made with red cabbage and, of course, dulse. Most recently, Thirty Acre Farm, and Gracie’s Garden have created ferments with sea veggies that we’ve sampled–so tasty and nutritious!

Fermented Sea Kraut in the making, from Grow It, Can It, Cook It.

Further out in the world, fermented foods company Ozuke offers their own “Beet, Dulse, and Kale” blend. Iggy’s Foods features a “Sushi Kraut” made with dulse, nori, and wakame. There’s OlyKraut’s Sea Greens gourmet sauerkraut. And take a look at A Gardener’s Table for kohlrabi kraut with sea palm (a west coast seaweed), and Fermented Sea Kraut at Grow It, Cook It, Can It. We also just learned about Cucina Verde, a food enterprise in Delaware where they feature a fermented blend of veggies called 3-D Kraut–for Dandelion, Daikon, and Dulse.

And krauts (though they may be called by other names) can be made with many vegetables, from carrots and beets to radishes and turnips. Seaweed adds mineral goodness to fermented veggies, plus vitamins, fiber, and more.

Fermenting veggies softens them but helps them keep a nice crunch, and lends a briny, tangy flavor that can border on subtle sweetness depending on the kind of veggie and what else is used in the kraut. The process is simple:  mix salt with veggies and massage to help release liquid from the plants, pack into a crock or jar, make sure liquid comes above the surface of the veggies by weighing them down, cover to keep out dust and insects, and let nature do its thing. Because they’re under the surface of the brine, the veggies are not exposed to air and ferment in an anaerobic environment. Different kinds of beneficial bacteria are encouraged to grow, in succession, as the acidity and other variables change, and harmful bacteria are kept at bay. Some people use seaweed in ferments to replace some or all of the salt (since seaweeds are so rich in a variety of mineral salts).

Art of Fermentation

The classic…

There are lots of resources for guidance and advice on making krauts and other cultured veggies. The Wild Fermentation website, and books by fermentation guru Sandor Katz are good places to start.

Treat your body, mind, spirit, and microbiome to fermented foods. And eat your sea veggies!

 

 

 

 

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We are thankful for…

…green seaweeds, brown seaweeds, red seaweeds, all seaweeds

our customers, and all we learn from them

our colleagues and teachers

our families and friends

chocolate :>

curiosity

resilience and flexibility

sunshine and photosynthesis

the phenomenal ocean that’s so abundant with life

to be able to live and work in a beautiful place, connecting people with seaweed

to work with people we love!

What are you thankful for?

May you find rest, good company, and nourishment in the holiday, from all of us at

Maine Coast Sea Vegetables.

~~~Eat your sea veggies!~~~

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Returning

We’re back! August flew by, and we’re already about to start the final week of September. Today marks the official end of summer and beginning of fall in our neck of the woods. It’s been a beautiful, sunny, and warm day, with cooler weather moving in tonight.

As the seasons shift, we’ll be back with more Seaweed in the News, stories about this year’s harvest, and other seaweed goings-on. Here’s a little preview: seaweeds, fermented veggies, and gut health; a look at how and why wild-harvested seaweeds vary in appearance, texture, taste, and nutritional content; what nature has brought us from the sea this year; and more seaweed stories that we come across.

Bladderwrack FrenchFor now, a story from BBC news dug up from a little over a year ago, about the potential for new antibiotics from seaweed. Earlier this week we caught a story about the rise of antibiotic resistance as a global health issue, on the day that the U.N. General Assembly was to address the issue. And another story about researchers looking to ancient botanical remedies from plants for new antibiotic tools. Could learning from seaweeds be part of the solution to this pressing public health problem?

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August shutdown

It’s that time again, when we close up shop for about four weeks for our annual August shutdown. We close at the end of business this Friday, July 29, and re-open on Monday August 29.

Shutdown gives most of us a break, except for some office staff who work a bit to keep things running, and the harvesters who are working hard to bring in and dry the seaweeds we all rely on. It also gives us a chance to have some things done in our facility that are difficult to do when we’re open. The tradition began at a time when Maine Coast Sea Vegetables was a tiny operation, with only a few people doing everything–harvesting, drying, sorting, packing, filling orders, and paying the bills. August is a peak harvest time, and there weren’t enough hands to do it all. Now that MCSV is a bit larger, with more hands to do the work, the tradition continues as a way to help our staff sustain themselves. And no one can argue with having a break during August in Maine!

So enjoy the rest of your summer in your own corner of the world, and keep on enjoying your sea vegetables, too.

Thank you to all of our customers, colleagues, friends, families,

and all seaweed lovers!

We’ll see you on the other side…

Mixed weeds.MCSV

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Maine Calling

Check out a recent episode of Maine Calling on MPBN, our public radio network, on “The Business of Seaweed in Maine.” The call-in show features Tollef Olson of Ocean’s Balance, George Seaver of Ocean Organics, and our own Shep Erhart, founder of Maine Coast Sea Vegetables, plus callers with wide-ranging views discussing the past, present, and future of Maine seaweed business.

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Seaweed Education Events

One of the things we love best about our work is getting involved in seaweed education efforts, from visits to local schools to supplying educators with seaweeds, to spreading the word about cool events. Here’s a few of our favorites.

Looking ahead, Micah Woodcock of Atlantic Holdfast Seaweed Company will teach a cooking class on Maine seaweeds as part of a series from Edible Island Culinary and Ecological Center in Stonington, Maine on Monday August 29, 5-8 pm.

Happening now…

Eagle Hill Institute in nearby Steuben hosts an incredible series of workshops, classes, and seminars in the warmer months (in addition to events and programs in other seasons). For the past several years, they’ve offered Introduction to Maine Seaweeds: Identification, Ecology, and Ethnobotany, a weeklong seminar on Maine’s marine macroalgae, or seaweeds. The seminar is taught by Jessica Muhlin, associate professor of marine biology at Maine Maritime Academy,  and Nic Blouin, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Rhode Island. Jessie and Nic are longtime friends of Maine seaweed and of MCSV, connect science and the arts, and are fun and creative educators. This year’s seminar runs from July 24-30, and will include a visit from Seraphina Erhart, MCSV general manager.

coast-encounter-Animation-24And ongoing…

Carol Steingart of Coast Encounters offers a variety of “Intertidal Excursions” on the coast of Maine, or bringing the coast to you. Her programs for adults, kids, and families are creative, engaging, and fun! They include Algal Edibles, focused on getting to know, cooking with, and otherwise enjoying Maine’s sea veggies.

 

 

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Seaweed in the News

The seaweed news has been rolling in like the tide, but today we’re going to focus on one story–Zadie’s Oyster Room in New York City, and the affinity between oysters and seaweed.

Zadie’s is a new but old-fashioned oyster bar just opened by chef Marco Canora (also chef and owner of Hearth in NYC). The New York Times recently featured one of  his dishes in an article in the Food section, “The Secret to Zadie’s Poached Oysters”:

Mr. Canora says the secret weapon in the sauce is the wakame. “Oysters and seaweed, they obviously go really well together.”

Poached, and raw, aren’t the only oyster presentations at Zadie’s, where you can also find the succulent bivalves baked, fried, steamed, and pickled. Seaweed accompanies many of these dishes, from sea lettuce to dulse to wakame and hijiki, plus a kelp slaw on the side. In fact, in another article on Zadie’s, at BedfordandBowery.com, Canora elaborates:

“All of my cooked oyster dishes incorporate seaweed. They really compliment and amplify the flavor of the oysters.”

It turns out that Canora is using some of our seaweeds in his menu. The wakame mentioned is likely our Alaria (Alaria esculenta), a seaweed very similar to Japanese wakame and delicious in soups, salads, and seafood dishes. Alaria thrives on rocky ledges in the turbulence where waves crash and currents surge.

Canora has noted that he nearly called Zadie’s an oyster and seaweed bar, he is so struck by how the two complement (and even compliment) one another. And if you look closely at  the image on Zadie’s storefront, you can see that a wreath of seaweed encircles the name, connected by the curves of an oyster shell.

 

That’s all for now…until next time, Eat Your Sea Vegetables!

And if you have a chance, visit Zadie’s and enjoy all the briny delights…

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Seaweed in the News

“Papa Smurf” Latte

Matcha Mylkbar is set to introduce a series of ‘blue’ dishes to its menu like this ‘Papa smurf’ smoothie bowl. Picture: Matcha Mylkbar

Source: Matcha Mylkbar and Supplied

I’d like a half-decaf, skinny latte with a twist of lemon, please…with algae! In one of the more bizarre stories to come along recently, this one from Australia about new drink offerings at Melbourne cafe Matcha Mylkbar features creations with blue-green algae–hence the Papa Smurf blue.

(Ok, this is not exactly about seaweeds, but all seaweeds are algae, even though not all algae are seaweeds. Blue-green algae are a kind of microalgae, one-celled and microscopic).

Obsession can be a good thing

Another story from down under, this one on why people are supposedly obsessed with the Japanese diet: plenty of carbs, fish, some dairy, fermented foods, and of course, sea vegetables.

The article is about not only the what of eating, but the how: mindful eating, and moderate portions–the article says that in the Japanese diet the emphasis is on eating until one is 80% full.

Every corner of the Earth

We think of Asian countries such as Japan, China, and Korea as centers of sea vegetable consumption, cultivation, and cultural history, but other countries around the world have their own sea vegetable stories, both past and present. “Seaweed gains ground as a pillar of food security in South America” outlines some of these stories, particularly around the use of Porphyra species (“luche”) and kelp (“kollof”) in Chile.

“Seaweeds have been used as human food ever since ancient times, especially in China, the Korean peninsula and Japan. When people from these countries migrated to other regions of the world they took their food habits with them.  This is why dishes based on fresh, dried and salted algae can be found in nearly every corner of the earth.”

That’s all for now. Until next time, Eat Your Sea Vegetables!

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Seaweed in the News

The seaweed news buzz continues this week.

Image result for Gracilaria lemaneiformisSeaweed for Allergies?

First up, a short article about recent research that investigated the potential anti-allergy properties of a polysaccharide (complex sugar) from the “red” seaweed Gracilaria lemaneiformis.

Don’t let the bright green fool you

Another article on seaweed nutrition and uses, from the site NetDoctor. Look out for the image of seaweed salad, though–they show one of the bright green versions that come from food coloring, not seaweed’s natural color. Interestingly, they also recommend that brown sea veggies such as kelp be eaten only once per week, due to high iodine content in some. It’s true that many brown seaweeds have substantial iodine, and that too much of a good thing may not be so good. Each person’s needs, metabolism, and ideal intake of iodine or any nutrient can be somewhat different.

Seaweed Magic

This profile of a pub in the UK that was voted restaurant of the year notes that chef Stephen Harris adds a “magical local ingredient” to the homemadele-beurre-bordier-collection-beurre-beurre-aux-algues butter. You guessed it, seaweed, though they don’t say what kind. That’s the only seaweed mention here, but it’s a good one. And seaweed butter is fantastic–imparting a complex, briny flavor to the richness of good butter. Recipes and usage ideas for seaweed compound butter abound–you can find some here, from Saveur magazine, with oysters in the New York Times cooking section, from chef Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen Cornwall restaurant, and from Le Beurre Bordier, called the originator of seaweed butter, or beurre d’algues.

And if you want more, here’s the story of chef Harris’ creation of seaweed butter.

It had the fresh, salty, iodine smell of the seaside on a breezy winter’s day. It was vivid green and the taste was extraordinary: somewhere between vanilla, truffles and grass.

That’s all for now. Enjoy the weekend and Eat Your Sea Vegetables!

 

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Seaweed in the News

It’s all about eating and enjoying seaweeds, and the benefits they provide, this week.

The Joys of the Internet

Sometimes a gem is hidden by nondescript or blah surroundings. A lackluster story that came over the transom this week lead us to this video, The Nutritional Benefits of Seaweed, the Ocean’s Superfood, from January 2015. Most of the information seems valid, and the video covers many seaweed species and the benefits they provide. They even mention Maine Coast Sea Vegetables–thank you!

Sweet, Simple Seaweed Salad

The same story also links to a nice video by Dr. Paul Gannon, talking briefly about the benefits of sea veggies and making a simple, delicious-sounding seaweed salad. (He soaks the dried seaweed in tangerine juice, providing the acid and liquid needed to soften it, plus a little sweetness and extra nutrition….yum!)

Golden Alaria--delicious in seaweed salad

Golden Alaria–delicious in seaweed salad

Dr. Gannon talks about Dulse here, and how good it is to snack on right out of the bag, and then brings out several bags of Wakame from different sources. And he uses Wakame in the seaweed salad. What he doesn’t say is that Alaria (Alaria esculenta, which we call Wild Atlantic Wakame) is very similar to Japanese Wakame, and is excellent in seaweed salad. So if you want to make this recipe (or another version, the variations are endless) with more locally or regionally sourced seaweed, check out Alaria.

Seaweed: the Old, New Superfood

Talk of seaweed or varieties such as kelp as the “new superfood,” overtaking kale for the title, abound this year. It’s easy to forget that the only thing new about seaweed is the attention it’s getting. People in coastal cultures around the world have been eating seaweed for centuries, even millennia, for the powerhouse nutrition it contains. (Seriously, millennia–research in Chile has shown evidence of nine species of marine algae at an archaeological site dating back some thirteen to fourteen thousand years ago.) This article features many potential superfoods, including Dulse. Note that Dulse is not a kind of kelp–kelp is a totally different kind of sea veggie!

One of the links in this story goes to an even better one that we missed back in December 2015, featuring Portland, Maine’s Vinland restaurant, chef David Levi, and a sea vegetable tasting and talk they hosted by Atlantic Holdfast Seaweed Company’s Micah Woodcock. Check out the story to see some of the beautiful dishes Levi has created with seaweed.

“It’s so eye-opening,” says Levi. “It’s so different from what people expect. But there’s not anything especially challenging — it’s just delicious.”

That’s all for now. Until next time, Eat Your Sea Vegetables!

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