Algae – Countless Species

While algae are part of the daily diet in many Asian countries, many are only familiar with them as the outer green layer of sushi rolls. There are countless species of algae and plenty different types of edible algae. Aside from the usual nori leaves used for sushi, the wakame, kombu and dulse varieties are becoming increasingly popular in Germany.

Other popular types of algae are spirulina, chlorella and agar – the popular vegan gelatine substitute made from red algae. Chlorella is mostly found in food supplements. It belongs to the microalgae group, which is less suitable for cooking. Macroalgae, more commonly known as seaweed, on the other hand are very different and ideal for adding to a salad or a soup.

FOODFACTS FOODFACTS
Class undaria
Calories 12 kcal per 100 g
Nutrients 1g carbohydrate, 2g fibre, 0g fat, 1g protein per 100g
Season February-June
Storage in a dry, cool and dark place
Shelf life a few months (dried)

Algae – Nutritious Value

Algae are a coveted food not only because of their fresh sea flavour, but also their nutritious value. They are low in fat and provide multiple minerals and vitamins. Many varieties contain iodine and omega 3 fatty acids. Algae are also a valuable iron source. The kombu variety provides a great boost of iron. Other algae varieties provide a significant amount of protein; spirulina is particularly protein-rich and, in its powder form, is an excellent ingredient to add to a smoothie for an extra kick.

Algae – Popular Varieties and their Uses

To make sure you are prepared for your next shopping trip, here is a brief overview of the different types of algae and their uses:

  • Wakame: This type of seaweed is most common in Japanese miso soups and lends them a unique flavour.
  • Nori: The perfect way to contain sushi! Dried, crushed nori can also be used to season fish dishes.
  • Kombu: For those looking to add some variety to their salad, liven it up with a few sweet leaves of kombu.
  • Dulse: This variety has a particularly nutty aroma that goes well with salads, soups, Asian stir-fry dishes, and smoothies.
  • Hijiki: Another all-rounder, hijiki is often thrown into wok dishes and soups, and is a popular side dish with a very unique aroma.

Algae – A Source of Iodine

Algae are an excellent source of iodine – sometimes even a bit too good. The trace mineral is important for the body but when eaten in excessive quantities, it can lead to problems such as thyroid dysfunction. However, as long as you follow a balanced diet, there is no need to worry about eating too many algae. Simply keep an eye on the iodine content when helping yourself to your next portion; the recommended daily allowance is 15 mg for an adult.

Algae – Shopping and Preparation

Seaweed, in its dried form, can often be found in Asian specialty supermarkets or high-end supermarkets. Some varieties are cultivated in Europe, so you should also keep an eye out for some fresh algae. Most European algae come from Brittany in France. However, dried algae have a much longer shelf life and only require a short soaking time before preparing them just as you would normal mushrooms. Depending on the variety and the recipe, simply boil the seaweed or eat it raw in a salad.

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