Seaweeds or Sea Vegetables?
According to the dictionary, a weed is a plant considered undesirable, unattractive, or troublesome, especially one growing where it is not wanted. So while most aquatic plants are pegged as “seaweeds” the Japanese refer to them as sea vegetables.
Many of the aquatic plants are of great value for both the ecological system in which they live and for human consumption. Algin, a chemical found in aquatic plants is used in toothpaste, shampoo, beer, and many other products and in some places in the US “seaweeds” are the basis of some very productive industries. Kelp is found in ice cream.
The Japanese use about 20 different types of sea vegetables in their diet. Popular items in the Asian food section of stores around the world you would be able to purchase nori, wakami, and even konbu as cooking ingredients.
The Tlingit and other Native Alaskan people have also discovered the value of some of these plants and readily use what is today called black seaweed and sea ribbon. Both plants have great nutritional value. In 2005 the US Forest Service published a third edition of a 1984 publication that is a great source of information for those who would like to expand their knowledge of the plants and resources around us and how to include them in one’s diet. It is titled “Our Food is Our Tlingit Way of Life; Excerpts from Oral Interviews by Richard G. Newton and Madonna Moss.”
Most people are familiar with black seaweed used in sushi, but that is just on strain of the seaweed. Due to popularity farmers cultivate it specifically for culinary purposes. Seaweed grown off the East Coast of the United States is exported around the World.
Rockweed is also very popular for use in lobster bakes and clambakes. The rockweed pockets will rupture during cooking to provide moisture and seasalt to add flavoring to the food. At around $55 for 20 pounds it’s around the same price as prepackaged salads.
For nearly 50 years our company has been building machines that cut and harvest aquatic plants. This is usually done to clear the waterway for transportation or recreation. However, we have supplied machines specifically designed to harvest certain types of kelp, like rockweed which is a valuable resource as nutritional supplements, food, and inexpensive, highly effective fertilizers.