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the truth about seaweed: is it really a vegetable?

Seaweed has long been a popular ingredient in many Asian dishes and is known for its nutritional value. With its rise as a popular ingredient and superfood in western culture, we often get the question - “Is seaweed a vegetable?”. It’s a good question because much like mushrooms, seaweeds are not plants nor animals. 

Despite not being a plant, seaweed is often categorized as a sea vegetable. Sea vegetables are a group of edible seaweeds that are used in many cuisines around the world. They are often used as a substitute for vegetables in dishes, such as in seaweed salads. But are they real vegetables?

From a botanical perspective, seaweeds are not classified as vegetables. A vegetable is a plant or part of a plant that is used as food and grows on land. These are foods we all know and love like spinach, broccoli, carrots, and lettuce. Vegetables belong to the plant kingdom, and can be classified into different categories based on their parts, such as leaves, roots, stems, flowers, and seeds. These parts make up a whole that allow the plant to draw nutrients in from the soil and sun. 

Seaweed, on the other hand, is not a plant, but rather a type of marine algae that grows in the ocean belonging to the protist kingdom. These marine algaes also come in wide varieties. Collectively, there are over 10,000 known algae species, with the majority of them being edible.. Algae are primitive organisms that lack many of the complex structures that plants have, such as roots, stems, and leaves. Instead, seaweeds draw nutrients from the ocean through their surfaces.

However, despite not being a true vegetable or a land-based plant, seaweeds are still a highly nutritious food that is rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. For this reason, from a culinary perspective, seaweed is often considered a vegetable. This is because it is used in a similar way to many vegetables, such as in salads and soups. Seaweed is also high in many of the same vitamins and minerals as vegetables, such as vitamin C, vitamin K, and potassium.

In fact, seaweed is often considered a superfood because of its nutritional value. It is low in calories but high in nutrients, making it an excellent choice for anyone looking to eat healthy. Seaweed is also a good source of iodine, which is essential for thyroid function. Incorporating seaweed into your diet can be a great way to add variety to your meals while also reaping the many health benefits it has to offer.

Head over to our farm shop to explore all of the different ways you can eat seaweed. Learn more about seaweeds found on the coast of Maine in our Hidden Gems of the Coast of Maine blog post.