I’ve always been a mermaid at heart. With wild hair and the beach in my backyard growing up, even my DC coworkers could tell that on hot summer days, seeing Hope in the city was like seeing a fish out of water. Recently, I have had the opportunity to re-embrace this side of me because my husband and I moved to Virginia Beach. I now get to create change for food and nutrition clients with a view of the ocean and it got me thinking- what can the deep blue teach us when it comes to eating well and sustainably?
Being the food and nutrition wonk that I am, I have heard some rumblings on blogs and podcasts like the BBC’s Food Programme about the promise the sea might hold for a food source beyond seafood. And, as a dedicated seaweed consumer, I was all ears.
After far too many hours spent in endless click-holes of internet searches, I made a discovery. I believe sea vegetables are going to be the new kale. No, no- not sea cucumbers. They are kind of scary. I am talking sea weeds, sea kelps, sea mosses- seagreens, as Chef Barton Seaver likes to call them.
I know it is a big claim. And some may not fully agree. But, do you remember when kale was simply the garnish on your plate? Now it is the star of the show in salads, soups, and even smoothies. It is one of the greatest examples of the food version of #GlowUp, if you ask me. Sea vegetables have all the makings of the next nutrient-dense green that everyone craves.
A little unsure about chowing down on the green stuff that washes up on shore? Here are my top five reasons why I believe sea veggies are the future:
- They are easy to grow. Growing seaweed, for example, requires no watering, no fertilizer, no tending to, and it grows quickly. Grow an indigenous type, and you will actually be improving the ecosystem as seaweed cleans the water helping to prevent algae blooms. It also thrives in the winter months.
- They are sustainable. Sea vegetables are sustainable for the environment and can be used as a tool to feed a growing population. As Kate Burns, Managing Director of Islander Kelp and kelp farming advocate, has explained, it is important to consider that the short growing time for kelp, for example, could be a strategy to feed more people sustainably in the future. And, if you talk to Severine von Tscharner Fleming in Maine where seaweed farming is big, she will tell you it will yield literally tons more product than other types of aquaculture, such as salmon farming.
- They are tasty. Some may say the ocean flavor is a turn off, but I encourage you to remember the first time you accidentally bit down on kale garnish- yuck. We had to learn how to cook, prepare and enjoy kale, and the same will be true of sea vegetables. In the last three years, researchers even discovered a red seaweed called dulse grown in the wild along the Pacific and Atlantic coastlines that tastes like bacon. BACON.
- They are nutrient-packed. Sea vegetables can hold their own on the healthy scale. We are talking Vitamin C, iron, and iodine. Sea vegetables also contain polyphenols, which are micronutrients like the hesperidin in orange juice or resveratrol in red wine, which have anti-inflammatory properties. Sea veggies even contain some molecules, such as sulfated polysaccharides, that could be particularly good for heart health. Naturally salt-free and free of carbohydrates and fat, sea vegetables could be just the healthy ingredient meals have been missing.
- They’ve got serious trending potential. Seaweed and sea veggies are no longer confined to the dried seaweed snacks at your local Asian food market- they are making it onto Michelin-star menus. Tucked away in the Faroe Islands is a restaurant named Koks which prides itself on being able to use local ingredients, including sea vegetables harvested on the cliff just below the dining room. Rumor has it visitors from all over the world are flocking to this tiny coastal town just to try these dishes.
Scrolling through images of sea kelp and seaweed, I found myself sounding more and more like the Little Mermaid- “look at this stuff! Isn’t it neat?” Nothing excites us more at Porter Novelli than the opportunity to help inspire positive change, and when it comes to healthy eating, I think sea vegetables are well on their way to taking the lead.