Notes from the Island Fishmonger

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seaweed salad
Wakame seaweed salad and kelp salsa, both available at the Big Water Fish Market

   For those of you who are health conscious yet picky about your veggies and want to eat healthy yet still insist on only food that tastes good, I have good news for you. Kale is out and Seaweed is in! Seaweed is quickly becoming the new superfood because of the environmental benefits, its nutritional value, and it tastes great.

  Every year I attend the International Seafood Show in Boston, Massachusetts. I don’t go for the weather as the show is in March but I do go for inspiration. Every year I take something new home with me from the convention and/or from the food industry within the city of Boston. Over the years I have had a culinary adventure of eating many treats of the sea that I never thought I would experience. I’m no Andrew Zimmern as you will never catch me eating fermented fish or fish eyeballs. Those aren’t my cup of tea, but if you ask, I would be happy to tell you about the sea urchins, sea cucumbers, raw live scallops, octopus, fish roe and raw shellfish that have entertained my taste buds year after year.

   The 2018 show was no different. Octopus seemed to be the highlight of the Boston restaurant tour but something that stood out for me this year was seaweed. Most of us are only familiar with seaweed when eating sushi. For other parts of the world, seaweed is part of a healthy diet and is also used in herbal medicines in many cultures. Seaweed is delicious and belongs to plant-like organisms that grow in the sea. The most commonly consumed types of seaweed include green algae, blue-green algae, and brown algae which is commonly known as kelp and wakame. Another common one is the Red algae which is the seaweed sushi wrap known as Nori.

   Beyond the delicious taste, have you ever wondered if the health benefits of seaweed are as good for you as many of the other creatures of the sea? I can tell you…the answer is yes!

   Seaweed packs a serious nutritional punch as it’s incredibly rich in antioxidants, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Like fish and shellfish, seaweed contains Omega-3 fatty acids which can help with stress and studies have shown it also helps prevent chronic diseases such as cancer and digestive problems. In addition to the nutritional value, seaweed also has a strong environmental significance.
   Just like a rain forest is full of wildlife, so is the ocean and a seaweed forest is much the same only underwater. A kelp forest can be seen as an extensive underwater solar city where the kelp provides food and the building structure for many of its inhabitants. Because seaweed is a primary producer and makes its food from the sun, many organisms feed on the kelp and in turn feed other animals.
   For example, sea urchins eat the kelp and sea otters eat the urchins and so on and so on. While kelp is food, it also provides shelter for many forms of sea life as it absorbs carbon from water which buffers the impact of ocean acidification. Most importantly kelp helps to keep a balanced ecosystem. Kelp can grow anywhere from 3” up to 2’ in a day so harvesting it for nourishment doesn’t hurt the benefits it gives our ecosystem.

   Seaweed is a fantastic source of Omega-3 and is delicious in Asian style salads, Miso soup, seaweed chips, and as a side dish to compliment a seared Tuna entrée. That being said, it is my opinion that for seaweed to become truly popular in the U.S. we need to market it differently.  For starters I would change the name from seaweed to “Sea greens” or “Sea vegetables”. Weed is not a very attractive word in the U.S. unless you’re using it as medicine for your glaucoma. Many restauranteurs are still unfamiliar with the delicious taste and health benefits of seaweed but all of us at Big Water Fish Market have already been educated on it. Our chef, Aaron Mobley, serves wakame seaweed salad with his seared Tuna plate and Tuna Poke appetizer. In June he will be featuring a Cobia Fish w/Kelp Salsa Taco as a lunch special on Wednesdays. This Kelp Salsa is a sustainable product of the pristine waters of Alaska and adds flavor and richness to any fish dish. You gotta try this one!

Eat Kelp & Feel Good!

Scott Dolan
Big Water Fish Market
6641 Midnight Pass Rd, Siesta Key

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