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Treasures of the sea

Seaweed, or more accurately, sea vegetables, has been part of the world’s diet since the Stone Age.

Archeologists have found food stashes of algae in Stone Age South African dwellings. Palmaria palmata, also known as fresh sol or dulse, has been eaten in Iceland since about 1000 B.C. Japanese literature regularly refers to sea vegetables as “gems” or “gemlike,” and in China’s “Book of Poetry” (800-600 B.C.), sea vegetables are prasied as a delicacy fit for any honored guest.

In “Breast Cancer?Breast Health! The Wise Woman Way,” master herbalist Susun Weed writes, “Brown sea weeds such as wakame, kelp or kombu provide a treasure chest of cancer preventive constitutents: anti-oxidant,carotenes, selenium and the star: alginic acid, which absorbs heavy metals, radioactive isotopes and some chemicals-escorting them harmlessly out of the body.”

Dharma Singh Khalsa, M.D., is president and medical director of the Alzheimer’s Prevention Foundation in Tucson, Arizona. In his book, “Food as Medicine,” he writes: “Sea vegetables provide ten times the mineral content of broccoli, and kelp contains more minerals than any other vegetable in the world.”

He goes on to say that seaweed provides the body with more than fifty minerals and trace elements and is excellent in aiding digestion, healing mucous membranes and joints, and optimizing thyroid function.

Agar, a clear tasteless sea vegetable, is good in cooking as an alternative to gelatin, which is made from hooves of cows, horses and pigs. Medicinally, Khalsa says, agar is a tonic for the gastrointestinal tract. Diane Warden, of Murrieta, CA and owner of the business “Smoke in the Kitchen-Cooking with Whole Foods,” uses dulse and kelp as a replacement for table salt. Dulse is especially good for women, offering more iron than any other sea vegetable. Diane’s children enjoy tearing off strips of nori, which comes in sheets and is used to wrap sushi. Nori has more vitamin A than carrots.

One of Diane’s favorite dishes is sauteed carrots, onions, and arame or hiziki. The sweetness of the carrots complements the strong flavor of the sea vegetables, she says. And, ounce for ounce, hiziki has fourteen times more calcium than milk.

There are several quality mail-order businesses for ordering in bulk, and Sprouts Natural Market in Temecula carries sea vegetables, as do Asian markets and some mainstream markets.

If anyone has a favorite sea vegetable fact or recipe, please e-mail it to me at, or leave a comment here. We are all learning!


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