Maine is known for its rugged, beautiful coastline - and lobster, but what is lesser known is that its waters hold a wealth of nutritious and flavorful seaweeds. These native seaweeds, including dulse, kelp, and nori, are not only delicious but also packed with essential vitamins, minerals, and other health-promoting compounds. Explore the various types of seaweeds found in the oceans of Maine and their benefits, how you can optimize your health by incorporating them into your diet, and how the planet's health benefits too.
First and foremost, all types of seaweeds offer incredible health and planetary benefits. Many seaweeds are an excellent source of iodine, which is crucial for healthy thyroid function. They also contain high levels of calcium, magnesium, iron, and potassium, making them a great addition to a vegetarian or vegan diet. Additionally, seaweeds are rich in antioxidants, and anti-inflammatory compounds. Most seaweeds are known to also strengthen the hair, skin and nails.
But, seaweeds all over the world don’t just benefit people. They are integral to the oceans too. Beyond being a food source for a number of marine species, seaweeds also absorb carbon and nitrogen as they grow. They create what is known as the “halo effect” helping to strengthen the shells of shellfish like mussels and oysters allowing them to grow strong and more resistant to predators. Further, these delicious sea vegetables don’t need any “extras” from us to grow unlike some of their terrestrial counterparts. They grow entirely free of fresh water, fertilizers or dry land.
Now, let’s jump into the various types of seaweeds found along the coast of Maine.
Dulse, or palmaria palmata, our first type of seaweed is a much loved red algae by seaweed eaters. It has a leafy look and grows in cold water on rocks in the North Atlantic and Northwest Pacific Oceans. It is an incredibly versatile seaweed that can be used in a variety of dishes, from soups and stews to salads and snack foods. It's a commonly eaten seaweed among Maine coast residents, but has also been consumed historically by Native Americans to treat scurvy in European settlers- a disease caused by a severe lack of vitamin C in the diet. With a slightly salty and slightly sweet flavor, it makes a popular ingredient in cooking and a great alternative to processed snacks. When fried up, this type of seaweed tastes very similar to bacon.
Our next type of seaweed, Kelp, a brown algae, is often used in Asian cuisine and is commonly found in seaweed salads and soups. There are many species of kelps both on the East and West coasts including bull kelp, giant kelp, sugar kelp, and skinny kelp. Sugar & skinny kelps are both native to Maine where bull & giant kelps are native to the west coast of the United States. Both sugar kelp and skinny kelp have a strong salty flavor when dried but provide a boost of umami flavor to dishes. These brown kelps are also known for their high iodine content, but whether you eat them or not, you probably use kelp daily. Kelps are often used in the making of toothpastes, puddings, shampoos and pharmaceuticals due to having alginates and carrageenan which give products a gel-like appearance.
Nori is perhaps the most well known type of seaweed. It’s a type of red algae even though it is a beautiful green color when dried. As an edible seaweed, it is best known for its use in sushi rolls, but is also becoming increasingly popular as a dried sheet seaweed snack. It is a popular ingredient in smoothies. Nori, like many seaweeds, is very nutritious, however, unlike some types of seaweed, it is made up of about 40% protein and has 10 times more calcium than milk.
Next up, we are highlighting bladderwrack, sometimes called rockweed but scientifically known as Fucus vesiculosus. For centuries, bladderwrack has been used in medicines and fertilizers. Similar to kelp in its nutritional value, rockweed is a type of seaweed that is commonly wild harvested in Maine because it is plentifully found growing on the rocks up and down the coast.
There is a lot to love about the various types of Maine seaweeds, but one of the best things is that they are easy to incorporate into your diet or lifestyle. You can buy dried seaweed to eat from organically certified farms like ours (www.nauticalfarms.com), and they are also available in supplement form (check out our Iodine Capsules!). Or you can bathe in them with our seaweed soaks found in our Bathhouse collection.
Incorporating Maine seaweeds into your diet can be a delicious and nutritious way to optimize your health. Kelp is good for your pets too! With their high levels of essential vitamins, minerals, and other health-promoting compounds, they are a hidden gem of the Maine coast that you don't want to miss. So next time you're looking for a healthy snack or a tasty addition to your meals, reach for some dulse, kelp, or nori and experience the benefits of these amazing Maine seaweeds.