Sea Vegetables (seaweed) are increasingly being recommended as a food of the future. Surprisingly enough to many, sea vegetables have already been used for centuries as a food, especially in coastal areas of Ireland, Brittany, Wales, Norway, Maine Coast, as well as Japan, Korea and China. Not only are they nutrient rich, vegan, and delicious, they are also sustainable; they can be grown without the need for land, fresh water, or fertiliser.
Clearspring has offered a range of Japanese Sea Vegetables including Sushi Nori, Wakame and Arame right from its start in 1993.
We recently expanded our range with the launch of a new Organic Atlantic range including Agar Flakes, Dulse, Sea Salad and Sea Spaghetti. The entire range is sustainably farmed in the Atlantic Ocean, supplied by a family business and comes in innovative, 100% sustainable packaging which features a home compostable inner pouch.
Some of you might already be familiar with our sea vegetable range. For those who are not we thought we would put together a brief blog and introduce you to our full range.
We are confident they will liven up your mealtimes. So, whether you are looking to perfect your Japanese and Asian cuisines or just to add a delicious, umami flavour to your everyday meals, keep on reading!
Nori (Pyropia yezoensis) is the most well-known of the sea vegetables. It is an edible seaweed which is popularly used in Japanese cooking, especially sushi, onigiri (rice balls) and even as a snack.
Originally gathered wild, nori has been cultivated in Japan for over 300 years. Nets made of woven rope impregnated with nori spores are suspended each year between long bamboo poles set deep into the calm, shallow bays. The height of each net is carefully fixed so that it remains above the water level during low tide, giving the growing nori maximum sunlight, but below the water level, so the plants receive a regular washing, at high tide.
During the colder months, the delicate nori plants will grow until they cover the entire net. In late winter they are harvested and brought ashore, where they are washed, cut, made into thin sheets, and dried.
Clearspring’s range features several nori products from Kyushu in Japan, which includes Toasted Sushi Nori and Toasted Nori Strips, both of which are ready to use. We also have untoasted Nori sheets which require a brief toasting over a gas flame or electric burner until the nori sheet turns a vibrant green. It is then ready to be used to make sushi rolls or to cut with scissors into quarters and used for wrapping rice balls. You can even cut them into thin strips and use the nori as a tasty garnish for grains, noodles, soups, and salads.
If you are looking for an instant way to add the delicious taste of nori to your dishes, then try our Japanese Green Nori Sprinkle (Aonori). It is made from a different variety to the nori sheets and called Ulva pertusa. Rather than sheets, the green nori is turned into small, dried seaweed flakes which are ready to use straight out of the pack. For a delicious herb flavour, sprinkle on pizza and pasta, rice and noodles, vegetables, soups and salads. Also delicious in breads, muffins and crêpes, sauces, dressings and dips.
We also have a range of organic toasted nori snack range called Seaveg Crispies. The nori sheets used are grown in the clear waters off the coast of South Korea. The nori is baked for just a few seconds to create a light, tasty, convenient, healthier snack which comes in several flavours including chilli, ginger, turmeric, and black pepper. They are delicious on their own or used as a garnish.
Kombu (Laminaria japonica) is edible kelp, a large brown algae. It is a key ingredient used to make Dashi, a stock popular in Japanese cooking, although Kombu is also popular across East Asia.
Clearspring Japanese Kombu is sustainably harvested in the luscious waters off the island of Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost prefecture. It is grown in water for up to two years and can measure up to 30 meters. Whilst there are a variety of different uses for Kombu including as a flavouring, in salads and even to make Kombu tea, it is most popularly used for Dashi.
To make Dashi, soak 2g of kombu in 1 litre of water for about 20-30 mins or over night. Then slowly bring to the boil and gently simmer for an additional 5 minutes. You will enjoy a unique, umami-rich stock base perfect for a wide variety of dishes including soups and stews. You can also add Clearspring dried Shiitake mushrooms to make a shiitake broth, just soak 2 pieces and follow the same method.
Kombu naturally contains high levels of iodine. People sensitive to the effects of iodine are advised to seek medical advice before consuming this product.
Hijiki (Hijiki fusiforme) is a distinctive jet-black sea vegetable that grows wild on the rocky shores in long thin strands. It is most widely popular as an ingredient in Japanese cooking and across Asia.
Clearspring Japanese Hijiki comes as short black strings that are naturally rich in ﬂavour with a delicate texture and make a satisfying dish when sautéed with vegetables or cooked and mixed with tofu or seeds. Hijiki’s black colour contrasts well with yellow, orange and green tones of other foods.
To prepare, first wash then soak in cool water for 30 minutes (note it will triple in size). Drain, rinse, then cook in water for 20 minutes with your choice of seasonings such as soya sauce which you add towards the end of cooking when the Hijiki is soft. Delicious in stir-fries, salads, and alongside tofu and tempeh dishes.
Guidance from food safety authorities suggests limiting consumption of Hijiki to 5g dry weight per week. Sea vegs are naturally rich in iodine. People sensitive to the effects of iodine are advised to seek medical advice before consuming this product.
Arame (Eisenia bicyclis) is a popular wild sea vegetable used in Japanese cooking. It is semi-sweet and has a moreish flavour which makes it an excellent way to introduce nutritious sea vegetables into your diet. Its mild flavour makes it adaptable to many uses and international dishes ranging from vegetable burgers, salads or stir-fries.
Clearspring Arame has a slightly sweet and delicate flavour that makes it an excellent introduction to the delights of sea vegetables. With its dark, almost black colour, Arame makes an attractive addition to colourful to your dishes.
To prepare, wash then soak the arame in cool water for approximately 30 minutes (note it will double in volume.) Drain well and rinse briefly before adding to your choice of dish.
Clearspring’s authentic Japanese Sea Vegetable Salad is a combination of three delicious sea vegetables: Wakame (Undaria pinnatifida), Agar (Gelidium spp.), Aka Tsunomata (Chondrus ocellatus). Unlike some similar and mass-market products available on the market, all the ingredients are unbleached and undyed, and only of the highest quality.
When soaked and served with a vinaigrette dressing, it makes the most delicious side salad. Simply soak in cold water (note it will triple in volume), season, and serve alone or with garden salad vegetables. You can turn it into a more substantial dish by adding Tofu.
Clearspring’s Organic Atlantic Sea Salad combines of three delicious and diverse ingredients featuring organic Dulse (Palmaria palmata), Sea Lettuce (Ulva), and Nori. They have been carefully selected for their delicate flavour, soft texture, and vibrant colour.
It is incredibly easy to use. Simply sprinkle from the pack onto salads and cooked vegetables or add to dressings, sauces, and soups to include delicious and nutritious sea vegetables into your diet.
Wakame, also known as Undaria pinnatifida, is another deliciously diverse edible seaweed. If you have ever had miso soup, the succulent leafy green ingredient used is most likely wakame. It has a pleasant, mild flavour and a soft tender texture. It is incredibly versatile and easy to use. Whilst popularly used in traditional Japanese miso soup, you can also add it to salads and stir fries and even dishes including pasta and pies.
At Clearspring, we have three Wakame products; Japanese Wild Wakame, Organic Atlantic Wakame and Japanese Wakame Flakes.
Clearspring authentic Japanese Wakame is hand-harvested in the clear mineral-rich waters off the coast of Japan. It is then washed, hung on ropes, and left to slowly dry in the sun. Unlike most commercial wakame, Clearspring Wakame is not treated with softening agents such as enzymes or monosodium glutamate (MSG).
We recently added an Organic Atlantic Wakame to our range, which has been sustainably harvested in the Atlantic Ocean and is certified organic. It also comes in 100% sustainable packaging.
To prepare both Japanese and Atlantic wakame, simply wash and soak in lukewarm water for 10-15 minutes then drain well and rinse briefly. You can remove the hard stalks and chop into small pieces if you prefer. Mix directly to your salad and for soups and stir-fries, add the wakame at the end of cooking so that it retains its subtle flavour.
The Japanese Wakame Flakes are a delicious and convenient way to enjoy Wakame. Known in Japan as fueru wakame or ‘expanding wakame’, the product contains nothing but the best quality wakame. The flakes are made by a simple process where the wakame is blanched for a few seconds before being dried and then packed.
They are delicious in miso and clear soups. You should add them at the end of cooking time so that they retain their delicate flavour and appearance. They are also a great addition to stir-fries and salads; in which case they should be soaked in lukewarm water for just 2-3 minutes before using.
Agar, also called agar-agar, is a plant-based gelling agent made primarily from the red algae seaweeds from the orders Gelidium and Gracilaria. Clearspring offers two varieties of Agar Flakes: Clearspring Authentic Japanese Agar Flakes, known as "kanten" in Japanese and Clearspring Organic Atlantic Agar Flakes. Both varieties, whilst grown in different parts of the world offer a fantastic, high quality vegan alternative to gelatine when making desserts, jellies, and aspics.
Clearspring Japanese Agar Flakes is free from any bleaching chemical or softening agents. Almost all commercial agar-agar is made using sulphuric acid to dissolve the starches, and chemical bleaches and dyes to neutralise the colour and flavour of the sea vegetable. However, a few small craft producers, such as the family who make Clearspring Japanese Agar Flakes, still use the traditional slow method.
We recommend the following ratio: one heaped tablespoon of Japanese agar flakes for 250ml of liquid. If the liquid being used is acidic then more agar flakes would be needed. Sprinkle over the liquid in a saucepan before heating. Heat without stirring, then simmer for 3-5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the flakes dissolve. Pour into a mould and cool to set on the counter or in the fridge.
We recently added an Organic Atlantic Agar to our range, which is certified organic and is sustainably harvested from the Atlantic Ocean. The raw material is a bit harder compared to the Japanese agar flakes so you will need to soak it prior to heating. Be mindful as you only need one teaspoon to 250ml.
Dulse (Palmaria palmata) is the best-known sea vegetable from the North Atlantic and its versatility and ease of use make it a popular choice for a wide variety of dishes.
Clearspring’s Organic Atlantic Dulse is purple-red in colour and has a slightly spicy taste. It can be simply washed, soaked, cut, and added to soups and salads, or dry roasted and crumbled as a garnish. For a rich tasting treat, try deep frying Dulse straight from the pack. It is sustainably wild harvested from the North Atlantic Ocean.
One of the newest additions to our sea vegetables range is Clearspring Sea Spaghetti (Himanthalia elongata), which is a brown algae. It grows in a ribbon like form, very common on rocks exposed to the waves on clean coasts and harvested in Spring.
Clearspring Organic Sea Spaghetti is sourced from the luscious waters of the Atlantic Ocean. Its subtle combination of salty and nutty flavours makes it the perfect addition to a whole host of dishes. The short spaghetti-like strips can simply and conveniently be added to pastas, soups, salads, stews, pies, and casseroles.
If you have any questions, do feel free to get in touch with us. You will find a variety of recipes featured on our recipes page which are made using Clearspring’s Sea Vegetables. We would love to see your recipes!
Note: It is worth noting that sea vegetables are naturally rich in iodine. People sensitive to the effects of iodine are advised to seek medical advice before consuming any of these products.