“Did seaweed make us who we are today?”

From the files of fascinating seaweed stories…

Early humans needed most of their energy just to survive, and spent most of their time getting and eating foods to supply the energy they needed. So how did we evolve to have the large brains we have now, which require lots of energy, when most of our ancestors’ energy was used simply to make it to tomorrow?

A recent article on the website of Southern Denmark University highlights a paper that looks at the part that seaweed may have played in the development of the modern, large human brain.

The paper was published in January 2017 in the Journal of Applied Phycology (phycology = study of algae, including but not limited to seaweeds). One of the authors is Ole Mouritsen, a Danish scientist and food enthusiast who’s written several articles about seaweeds as well as the excellent book, Seaweeds: Edible, Available, Sustainable.

Seaweeds’ abundance of minerals, particularly iodine, zinc, magnesium, and other nutrients including polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) and vitamin B12, is cited as a source of nutrients needed by early humans to develop larger, more organized, and complex brains. The authors suggest that access to seaweeds and other coastal foods may have contributed to the development of modern humans.

And you thought seaweeds just tasted good… :)

~~~Eat your sea vegetables!~~~

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Solutions for microplastic pollution

Last year World Oceans Day focused on plastic pollution in the oceans, and we featured a three-part series to celebrate the oceans and highlight the problems, and some potential solutions, of plastics in the sea.

Microplastics are tiny plastic pieces found in ocean waters all over the world that come from fleece and synthetic fabric garments, plastic micro-beads in body care products, and the breakdown of plastics in the water. They are one of the most insidious threats to ocean health, and to the health of all creatures that live in the oceans and eat from the oceans, including humans. Although seaweeds seem to be relatively untouched by microplastics, we recognize that all life in the sea depends on the health of ocean ecosystems.

So we were excited to learn this week of two efforts to curb pollution from microplastics–working right in our washing machines.

The Cora Ball bounces around in the washing machine, or dryer, and collects microplastics and other fibers so they don’t go down the drain, and ultimately out to the sea. It was created by a group of scientists, ocean protectors, innovators, and educators and modeled after the way corals sweep through the water and trap tiny particles of food. (Biomimicry!) Plus they are made from recycled plastic, and are recyclable.

The Guppy Friend also traps plastic particles so they don’t go down the drain, but does so by wrapping around synthetic fabric garments in the wash. Rather than popping a few Cora Balls in the washer, you slide your fleeces into Guppy Friend bags before they go in the machine.

 

From the Cora Ball story:

“We are eating our fleece.

Every time we do laundry, our clothes shed tiny microfibers (including plastic), which go down the drains of our washing machines, through wastewater treatment facilities and into our waterways.

Everyone who wears and washes clothes is part of this pollution. Everyone who eats or breathes could suffer the consequences.”

And we’d add: Everyone can be part of the solution. Just by doing our laundry.

 

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La Choza: burrito lovers, meet seaweed

La Choza, a fun burrito joint on Martha’s Vineyard (transplanted from the Berkshires of western MA), recently added some new recipes, new toppings, and new products to its lineup. Among them: luscious vegan chili, chicken salad, and our Dulse and Sea Seasonings. Owner Seth Gambino even roasts the Dulse to add extra crunch and flavor.

La Choza’s new chicken salad, filled with veggies and with roasted Dulse sprinkled on top.

It’s true–sea veggies can add briny flavor along with a boost of minerals to all sorts of foods, including burritos, salads, nachos, dips, spreads, soups and chili, breads, and even desserts–the list goes on and on…

Hungry yet? Next time you’re on Martha’s Vineyard, check out La Choza! Many thanks to Seth for adding our products, and sharing some sea veggie love with his customers.

All photos: La Choza
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Go for the green on St. Patty’s Day–seaweed, that is

From NPR’s The Salt blog, a tale of Ireland and seaweed, including the fabulous recipe for Dulse and Cheese Scones from Prannie Rhatigan’s cookbook, Irish Seaweed Kitchen–one of our favorite recipes, from one of our favorite cookbooks:

Want to Eat Green for St. Patrick’s Day? Do It the Irish Way–with Seaweed

“Rhatigan grew up with seaweed-spiked meals, and as a physician she is especially keen on seaweed’s health profile. But her evangelism isn’t just about the minerals and protein – she’s taken with the flavor that’s waiting right off the shore, which can be used to spike butter, or toasted up into the maritime equivalent of a kale chip. Because on St. Patrick’s Day, why should your Shamrock Shake be the only thing that’s green?”

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Coming up: Cooking with sea veggies class!

We’ve just learned that there are only five spots left in the upcoming Get to Know Your Sea Veggies cooking class starting March 29! The class will run on three Wednesdays, March 29, April 5, and April 12, 5:30-7:30 pm at the Sullivan Learning Center.

In three consecutive Wednesday night classes you can explore the ocean’s vegetable bounty and the delicious flavors it offers. The first class will be an introduction to seaweed varieties and the chance to make some tantalizing appetizers to add to your repertoire. The second class will feature several main course recipes to make and share including: Southwest Peking Rolls with Smoked Dulse and Ancho Chilies. The final class will delve into the sweet side of sea vegetables with some tempting dessert treats and smoothie ideas to round out the menu.

Join MCSV Krunch baker and educator Kara Ibarguen for this fun and yummy class!

Kara in the Krunch kitchen at Maine Coast

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Sea veggie cooking class

Want to learn about the wonders of sea vegetables, and how to use them in culinary adventures? If you live in our neighborhood in downeast Maine (or want to visit), you’re in luck.

Kara in the Krunch kitchen at Maine Coast

In late March to early April, our very own Kelp Krunch baker, cooking maven, and educator Kara Ibarguen will teach a class through the local Adult Education center called “Get to Know Your Sea Veggies.”

Beginning on March 29, the class will run on three Wednesday evenings at the Sullivan Learning Center. Each will have a different focus–on appetizers, main course dishes, and desserts. Plus an introduction to sea veggie varieties.

Southwest Peking Spring rolls with Smoked Dulse and Ancho chiles, anyone? YUM!

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Happy Holidays from MCSV

From all of us at Maine Coast Sea Vegetables, wishing you and yours a warm and joyful holiday season!

Thank you for loving sea veggies, choosing our products, and helping us learn and grow.

We wish you all the best in 2017.

And Eat Your Sea Vegetables!

 

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Mary’s Gone Crackers has a new flavor made with Dulse!

What do we want in a cracker? Crunch, of course. And taste–a little salty, a little savory. Many crackers, even quite a few that are marketed as natural and healthy, provide the crunch and the taste but are made of simple starches and flavorings with some token wholegrain elements in the mix. In a cracker, we also want substance–whole foods, solid nutrition.

This is where Mary’s Gone Crackers comes in. Their line of crackers (plus cookies and other goodies) is made from whole grains and seeds, simple seasonings such as garlic and herbs, filtered water, and sea salt. And they are tasty, crunchy, and satisfying.

Super Seed Seaweed & Black SesameBut they just got even better–their new line of Super Seed crackers includes “Seaweed and Black Sesame,” made with our Dulse! Dulse brings a salty taste because of its mineral richness, providing a range of mineral salts rather than just sodium.

We had a chance to try out these new crackers this fall, and sampled them with goat cheese and our Sea Seasonings at the Maine Harvest Festival in November. They have all we want in a cracker!

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A Sea Twist on the Gingerbread House

In late November, Maine Coast Sea Vegetables got word about a fundraiser put on by Downeast Family YMCA in Ellsworth–they invited local businesses and organizations to create gingerbread houses to display and raffle off at a special event, “Moore Center Under the Lights,” on December 8.

Hearing about this event, MCSV Kelp Krunch™ baker and educator Kara Ibarguen jumped in with both feet. “As soon as I heard about the fundraiser, and that [MCSV] wanted to take part, the wheels started turning,” she says, knowing that the event was for a great cause, and a “good way for us to be active in the community and support healthy programs.” The event raised funds for the Y’s 2016 Annual Campaign.

Gretchen shingles the roof with Krunch bars!

Kara also knew right away that the MCSV gingerbread house had to have an ocean theme, and the idea of a lighthouse–iconic to Maine–came easily.

She also wanted to incorporate Kelp Krunch bars (of course!) and envisioned them gracing the roof as shingles, and creating paths, doors, and other accents, adding a “visual texture.”

 

Let there be light…

It was not enough to create a lighthouse, Kara wanted it to light! She envisioned a round cookie ‘walkway’ around the light, and figured out how to set it up so the bulb would light. Her husband, a builder, helped her turn her vision into shapes and measurements for the pieces so the structures would be sturdy.

Kara decorates the lighthouse with its bold red and white stripes while Gretchen works on the landscape.

Kara in construction mode

 

With only a couple of weeks to manifest the gingerbread lighthouse, Kara set to work, with lots of help from co-workers. They set out for supplies, especially excited to find gummy lobsters, and got to work. Kara baked the gingerbread pieces at home, and the construction and decoration took place in MCSV’s R&D kitchen at the center of our new building, with staff visiting to ooh and ahh, chip in a bit of help, and take photos. There were lots of smiles and laughs all around.

As the lighthouse and “keeper’s house” came together, the landscaping began–with turquoise candy forming the breaking waves on shore, candy “rocks,” gummy wreaths, candy canes, licorice strand railings and details, and of course, gummy lobsters.

The landscape had to have trees, and Kara envisioned them made from the fronds of dried Alaria (a type of kelp), layered on ice cream cones, affixed with icing–so all the parts of the house were edible. To add more seaweed elements, strands of Rockweed trail around as vines on the outside of the house.

The gingerbread houses were raffled off after the Moore Center event, on Saturday December 10. The lighthouse also came with MCSV’s cookbook, Sea Vegetable Celebration, two shakers of Sea Seasonings® that doubled as part of the lighthouse landscape, Original and Sesame Ginger Kelp Krunch bars, a bag of Dulse, and coupons for MCSV’s online store.

We heard that the woman who won the lighthouse was very happy. :)

Happy Holidays!

~~~and Eat Your Sea Veggies!~~~

 

 

 

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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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