Scientific Name: Alaria esculenta
Other Names: “Wakame”, “East Coast Wakame”, "Alaria"
Overview: Wakame is the standard sea vegetable in miso soup. It has been farmed in Japan since 710AD! A very versatile sea vegetable, wakame is low in Saturated Fat, and very low in Cholesterol. It is also a good source of Vitamins A, B2, B3, B5, B9, C, E, and K, and Phosphorus, Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, Copper and Manganese.
Taste: Sweet, Mild, Spinachy, Clean
Sustainability: Sustainable. Seaweeds grow attached to rocks at different levels or “zones” in the ocean. Alaria grows in both a lower and upper zone. The Alaria in the lower zone propagates (spreads) to the upper zone. Maine Seaweed harvests the Alaria growing in only the upper zone, leaving the permanent lower zone inhabitants alone to repopulate the upper zone, ensuring a sustainable cycle of harvest.
In the kitchen, the quick way to cut dry alaria is with a scissors. You can also soak alaria, then use a knife to cut it. Since alaria expands as it rehydrates, the second method of cutting alaria (after it has rehydrated, with a knife) will give you more control over the size of your final pieces. Don't throw away the soaking water! This water contains minerals. For instance, alaria is high in calcium. It's comparable to whole sesame seeds as far as calcium content (1,100 mg/100 g) and has high vitamin A content (8487 IU/100 g) similar to parsley and spinach. It's a wise choice for nourishing your bones. It's rich in B complex vitamins, vitamin C & K. It has moderate iodine, good for everyone, especially those with type A or B blood. Use the soak water for cooking. Pre-soaking alaria is a way of tenderizing it. Pre-soak alaria for at least an hour, until the midrib is thoroughly rehydrated.
Total cooking time for alaria (slow boil/fast simmer) needs to be at least 20-40 minutes. Remember that this isn't like many pacific Japanese wakames sold at other supermarkets which is often parboiled before drying to make it tender (and also results in the loss of minerals!). After 20-40 minutes of simmering, add sliced vegetables... etc.
Alaria is delicious when cooked with rice, barley, or millet. Cooked with beans (adukis, lentils, pintos, etc.), alaria will impart a rich "gravy" texture and help make the beans more digestible.
Heat skillet and add oil, shoyu, rice syrup & ginger. Simmer 30 seconds, then add onion and garlic (if using). Sauté 1-2 minutes. Add alaria and sauté until well coated. Add water just to cover and simmer 15-20 minutes. Add vegetables, sauté briefly, cover and steam until vegetables are bright and crispy tender.
Simmer a cup of rehydrated alaria which has been snipped into one inch strips in enough water to cover for 20-30 minutes until tender. Drain and save the cooking water.
For the sauce: Combine in a blender: 1/2 cup tahini with lemon juice to taste, fresh herbs like thyme and basil and oregano, a clove or two of garlic, soak water from alaria. Set aside.
Blanch sliced vegetables in boiling water, looking for an intensification of color, immediately removing them to cold water. Use string beans, asparagus, colorful peppers, carrots, broccoli florets, whatever strikes your fancy.
Bring the blanching water back to a boil and cook pasta (linguine or fettuccine) until al dente. Drain, saving one cup cooking water. Put the pasta back in the pot and stir in a tablespoon of olive oil. Then add the vegetables and alaria to the pasta and stir in the sauce, combining gently. Add a few tablespoons of cooking water if desired. Reheat the mixture briefly and serve garnished with parsley and fresh herbs.
Wash one cup of lentils; scissors-cut an 18" strip of alaria into 1/4" slices. Place in your bean pot in this order: lentils, alaria, one diced carrot, two stalks of celery, and one diced onion. Add water to cover and bring to a boil and simmer 45 minutes or until the beans are tender.
Check the water level occasionally and add more water if necessary. Season with tamari or sea salt during the last ten minutes of cooking. Alaria added to beans will reduce gas. Cumin will also.
For fun, add some cumin and serve burrito style with corn tortillas the next day.