While 2022 might have been the year of kombucha (thanks to its gut health qualities), it seems there’s demand for a new set of superfoods and they can all be sourced from one place in particular: the sea.
Now, if like us you were obsessed with Emily Mariko and her salmon bowls in 2022, then you’ve probably been buying sheets of nori for a while now. But it’s not just seaweed that is set to be the superfood of 2023.
In fact, according to Pinterest, a rising number of people have been searching for oceanic finds, like seaweed, sea moss and nori. In fact, queries like ‘the benefits of chlorophyll water’ are up 35%, the search term ‘green algae’ rocketed by 60%, and ‘seaweed snacks recipes’ has seen a massive 245% increase. Meaning? Vitamin Sea is set to become one of the biggest food trends this year.
‘They’ve become increasingly popular largely because of the health benefits, taste and the fact that it gives chefs and cooks the ability to turn most foods into something interesting because of the umami flavours they deliver,’ Nina Matsunaga, Chef Patron of the Black Bull in Sedbergh explains. ‘People use these sea-finds to transform seemingly boring dishes like broths, salads and so on into something new and exciting.’
But which ocean-found veggies are worth having on your radar? And what health benefits do these plant-based foods bring?
Whether it’s for culinary purposes or medicinal use, marine algae, like seaweed, has been used for thousands of years in places like east Asia. So, dishing up a plate of the dark and earthy ingredient is nothing new. But in 2023, seaweed — in all its guises — is becoming more mainstream.
The deep savoury tasting algae can be used to add a saltiness to a dish, it can be made the star of the show or used as a garnish. But putting its ability to add culinary excellence aside, Rhiannon Lambert, registered nutritionist and author of The Science of Nutrition, explains that seaweed also contains numerous nutrients that are needed to help keep our bodies functioning optimally.
“Many seaweeds are a great source of iodine which we need for the normal functioning of our thyroid and the production of important thyroid hormones,” she says. “These are essential for many processes within the body such as growth, brain development, and bone maintenance too.”
This is an edible kelp that comes with a briny, almost mushroom-like umami flavour. Matsunaga says: ‘Some people also use seaweed, like Kombu, to cure fish or ferment vegetables with. We use Kombu to make a dashi, then we reuse the seaweed, which we finely chop or blend into sauces. It never gets wasted.’
Heard of dulse? This is an edible seaweed that’s been touted to have a range of fibre, protein, and antioxidant qualities. It’s also rich in vitamins A, B and C. You can usually expect to spot dulse in a dried form, either whole, powdered, or flaked.
Noris is the name given to an edible seaweed that’s used in Japanese cuisine. You’ll most often find nori in the form of a thin, crispy sheet as it’s dried after being harvested. It comes with a delicately salty taste, all thanks to the sea, and it’s most famously used in sushi. But you could also use it as a garnish.
According to Matsunaga, oceanic ingredients like nori are ‘perfect’ for adding umami to veggie dishes to add that salty, savoury hint. She says: “It’s also great in salads, sushi, you can even use it for seaweed crackers, or puffed nori.”
If there’s one algae making waves in the wellness world it’s sea moss. It’s famous for its red colouring, although it can actually come in various shades of purple, green, yellow, brown and black.
The superfood is most often used as a natural food-thickening agent, because it contains the natural ingredient carrageenan. But it can also be eaten on its own, in smoothies or in tablet form as it’s a natural source of iodine. Plus, some skincare products even contain sea moss too as it’s believed to have antioxidant properties.
But where can you get your fix? "Sea moss in particular has gained a lot of attention recently," Lambert says. "But sadly, we can’t guarantee the source of many of these food items, particularly if you buy your products off of the internet." Your best bet? Check out east Asian markets or health food stores.
So, if there’s one foodie rule to live by in 2023? Go forth and ‘seas’ the day.
Remember to always consult your GP if changing or adding something new to your diet.