Entangled in deliciousness – a seaweed’s special
The North Atlantic is home to a large range of more than a worldwide total of over 10.000 different species of seaweed. Here in Iceland we use the sea vegetable for skincare and beauty treatments, medical products, fertilizer, and even brewing beer! But its richness in vitamins, minerals, and protein makes algae first and foremost a highly nutritious superfood.
A lifesaver in the past
In times of famines, bad harvests, and severe winters, the superfood from the ocean was able to prevent malnutrition and balance out the shortage of fresh fruits and vegetables. In Iceland, the health benefits of seaweed were recognized as early as the middle ages. The consumption of dulse appeared in the Icelandic Sagas, and its harvest was already regulated by the 13th-century Law Book Grágás :
“Each man owns the crops on all of his land. Men are allowed to eat berries and dulse on another man’s land without punishment.
But those have to pay a fine of three marks of whom it becomes known that they have unlawfully stolen it”
Eat it but don't steal it! This law is still in effect today and should of course also be taken into account
A basket of opportunities for the future
During the last century, seaweed hasn’t played an important role in the everyday nutrition of Icelanders anymore. But due to growing interest in natural and local resources as well as in highly nutritious superfoods, more and more companies are trying to develop new and creative ideas for seaweed products in Iceland, and chefs experiment more frequently with the tasty ingredient in their dishes. The increasing demand for healthy locally and sustainably farmed ingredients promises a bright future for this powerful seafood.
Let's get cooking!
The large group of seaweed is categorized into three big species: brown, red, and green seaweed. Which seaweed fits with what? We'll give you some ideas of what to create out of this versatile ingredient! Here is our seaweed beginner's guide:
Brown seaweed - yummie umami
Icelandic kelp belongs to the category of brown seaweed. Together with its relative, sweet kelp, also called Royal Kombu, it can be found on Iceland’s rocky shores.
Green seaweed – a taste of the ocean's salad bar
Sea lettuce is part of the green seaweed and what already looks like salad can also be eaten that way! Since sea lettuce tends to turn bitter when cooked we recommend eating it either fresh or dried as crispy protein snacks.
RED SEAWEED – THE COMMON AND THE LUXURIOUS
Both dulse and carrageen moss belong to the group of red seaweed. Dulse played a big role in the nutrition of the Icelandic past. Chewed raw but also as a wheat replacement, grounded, and mixed in bread dough, it used to be a common cooking and baking ingredient.
Carrageen moss works as a natural thickener and was mixed in porridge, skyr, and other dairy products. The cosmetic and food industry worldwide still uses it as such, and you probably eat products with the ingredient named E407 more frequently than you think.
Another interesting and more sophisticated type of red seaweed is the wild seaweed truffle. It's gaining more attention lately since its taste is said to resemble the truffle-like nutty flavor. That, its richness in antioxidants and decorative brush-like look make it a highly sought-after ingredient in the modern Nordic and haute-cuisine.