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Alaria Preparation and Basics
In the kitchen, the quick way to cut dry alaria is with a scissors. You can also soak alaria, then use a knife to cut it. Since alaria expands as it rehydrates, the second method of cutting alaria (after it has rehydrated, with a knife) will give you more control over the size of your final pieces. Don’t throw away the soaking water! This water contains minerals. For instance, alaria is high in calcium. It’s comparable to whole sesame seeds as far as calcium content (1,100 mg/100 g) and has high vitamin A content (8487 IU/100 g) similar to parsley and spinach. It’s a wise choice for nourishing your bones. It’s rich in B complex vitamins, vitamin C & K. It has moderate iodine, good for everyone, especially those with type A or B blood. Use the soak water for cooking. Pre-soaking alaria is a way of tenderizing it. Pre-soak alaria for at least an hour, until the midrib is thoroughly rehydrated.
Total cooking time for alaria (slow boil/fast simmer) needs to be at least 20-40 minutes. Remember that this isn’t like Japanese wakame which is often parboiled before drying to make it tender (and also results in the loss of minerals!). After 20-40 minutes of simmering, add sliced vegetables. The simplest combination would be one part alaria to four parts carrots. Cook until the carrots are tender. Add tamari to taste. Sometimes I throw in a couple of cloves, and it seems to work. Another simple combination is one part alaria, four parts green beans and a handful of almonds or sliced almonds, cooked until the beans are tender. Add a dash of tamari and a sprig of parsley. Another way to handle this dish would be to simmer the alaria until tender, place the green beans in boiling water for two minutes, drain and run under cold water to retain crispness and color, and then sauté the green beans in a cast-iron skillet on medium-high heat for three minutes (use refined sesame oil), add alaria and continue to sauté for three to four minutes. Remove from heat and season with tamari and add tamari-roasted almonds or sliced almonds. Pecans will work, too. Serve hot or cold.
Alaria is delicious when cooked with rice, barley, or millet. Cooked with beans (adukis, lentils, pintos, etc.), alaria will impart a rich “gravy” texture and help make the beans more digestible.
Alaria with Vegetables and Pasta
Sautéed Alaria with Vegetables
Lemon-Ginger Alaria Salad
The life of a kelp plant is about three years, spent in a tidal flow that reverses direction every six hours. Imagine being anchored by a holdfast, your hollow stipe gently lifting you toward the light, your wide blade/frond growing in the ocean’s inflow/outflow/inflow/outflow……and you’re one of the multitude that have been doing this since the beginning of Ocean here on this planet. Your life began when your tiny spore settled and attached to a rock. The first year you grew to a foot long, the second year, six feet long, and now, in your third year, you are one of the elders in a kelp bed, twelve feet long and exposed to turbulence on the surface at low tide. This is your last year, and you are releasing spores from the tip of your frond that will become the next generation of kelp. You are one of the Old Ones, a member of one of the oldest families of sea plants on earth, aligned with the flow of the universe…..and in the Light…..and there is no “I”……there is only the ancient All in One.
A Google search on seaweed will reveal that it is being studied for its positive effects on cancer prevention, cardiovascular health, degenerative disease combatant, detoxification, infection control, intestinal cleanser and healer, respiratory enhancer, sexual health and hormone support, thyroid balancer, weight-loss aid, and wound healer. For me, kelp is one of the great balancers of my body, and I use it daily.
Reconstitute kelp by cutting 4-5 inch lengths with a scissors and then soaking in warm water for 5 to 10 minutes. Then, to use as a vegetable, cut into strips or small squares and add to stir-fried vegetables, bean stews, soups, hot cooked grains, or simple noodle dishes flavored with miso or tamari. Kelp goes well with carrots, onions, parsnips, rutabaga, turnips, tofu, parsley, kale, cabbage, and other greens. Kelp may be used as a tenderizer for cooking beans, peas, and lentils. Kelp contains glutamic acid that softens the beans, making them more digestible. Simply add a 4 inch piece of kelp per pound of dried beans and cook until tender.
Kelp with Onion and Parsnip
Kelp with Rice
Freshly harvested and dried dulse is too tough for most people to chew. The secret of tender dulse is a bit like aging cheese. The dulse is spread out in the early morning hours to soak up a bit of humidity from the air, and then it is packed away tightly for a few weeks. This kicks off an enzyme process that breaks down the cell walls of the dulse, and the flavors slowly change.
Once dulse has been softened, it needs to be used within six months, unless it is kept refrigerated, in which case it can be kept for a year. Most people eat soft dulse as is or snip it onto salads and soups.
Dulse and Kale
DLT - Dulse, Lettuce and Tomato Sandwich
Dulse Shredded Salad
Dulse Salad with Avocado and Tomato
Digitata kelp grows in the most turbulent surf conditions, just below the alaria zone. Even on a flat calm day, there is movement in a digitata bed. Harvesting digitata kelp from a low-sided boat is a bit like playing rodeo. Grab the plant below the many-bladed frond (just hold up your hand and imagine your hand is the frond and the short stipe is attached at your wrist) and hang on tight! while you saw away at the stipe with a serrated frozen food knife wrapped and bound with old wetsuit material so it’s easy to grab and will float. Sometimes I feel my shoulder tugged in its socket, just like the cowboy hanging on to the lasso, roping calves. In my case, I have to watch out for breaking waves that can sink my boat. I’m playing at the edge of breakers, all the time. When the little eight foot boat is full (about eight bushels), I row back to the container boat and transfer the load. On a good new moon tide (a tide that goes out a foot lower than average low water), I will manage to do this five or six times.
Because digitata grows in such turbulence, it is not damaged by snails. As the summer goes on, digitata becomes sweet with mannitol sugar, and sometimes this sugar comes to surface as the plants dry. Not many plants can remain sweet without succumbing to pests. I admire digitata kelp for maintaining its own gentle sweet nature in a world of turbulence. May we all be so.
If I had to choose one variety of kelp for my kitchen, I would choose digitata kelp. This may be substituted into any recipe calling for kombu, for digitata’s cooking qualities are much the same. Reconstituted and cooked for fifteen minutes, digitata behaves like a vegetable and becomes softer. Cooked for an hour or more, digitata dissolves and creates a delicious creamy soup stock that the Japanese would call dashi. Just add ginger and tamari. The alginates that are released from the digitata through long cooking are able to bind (chelate) with the large molecules of heavy metals and radioactive isotopes and remove them from the body. Moreover, digitata contains iodine which nourishes and protects the thyroid so that it will not absorb radioactive iodine. My skin always gets softer when I handle digitata which is oozing with slippery alginates. Its softening effects on the body are obvious.
Beans with Digitata and Vegetables
Digitata with Spicy Root Vegetables
Most of our customers enjoy our whole wild nori right out of the bag or toasted lightly in a 250º oven until very crisp, then eaten like chips. You can also crumble the toasted nori easily with your fingers onto any dish. To make nori flakes, put a larger amount of the toasted nori in a food processor and pulse until the flakes are the desired size. Store in an airtight jar in the refrigerator. Nori can also be soaked in a saucer of water for 15 minutes, then cut into small pieces on a cutting board with a sharp knife. Add the cut nori to stir-fries with garlic, ginger and tamari. A little nori makes a nice addition to miso vegetable soup.
Fried Rice with Nori
Irish Moss Overview
Our Irish Moss is unbleached and in it’s natural state. To clean, take a handful of the moss and soak it in cold water in a large pot. After a few minutes begin to rub the moss with your fingers to remove any snails (the size of sand grains) and tiny “shrimp” that float to the surface. Drain the moss in a colander with large holes. Repeat the rinse and drain step two more times. When the moss is clean, you can add it to your recipe. Irish Moss can be marinated in an Asian dressing and used as a raw seaweed salad or garnish. It can also be added to soups and stews as light thickener. Toss a few pieces of soaked and cleaned moss into a green smoothie for an extra boost of minerals and iodine.