What ingredient is found in most foods but very few people know how to cook?

The answer is seaweed. You may know it is agar, carrageen, and other less obvious ingredients in baked goods, desserts, even chewing gum. But Barton Seaver insists a small shift in perception is all thats required to celebrate this nutrient-rich, flavour-complex and versatile food group. Whilst asian and european cultures have enjoyed seaweed as staple of their diet for centuries, others attach a stigma to the definition sea(weed). Seaver wants us to view seaweed as seagreens—edible ingredients to support sustainable food culture and health.

‘Superfood Seagreens’ (Sterling, 2016), reveals the history and health properties of ancient sea plants, identifying their virtue as a sustainable seafood, and demystifies the preparation and cooking process of this fascinatingly versatile ingredient.

Not just a savoury side, stock or soup enhancer, Seaver takes the epicurean potential of seagreens far beyond sushi and into the realm of deserts, smoothies, breakfast granola and other surprising integrations to outshine kale on the superfood scale.

This book is a must for foodies seeking inspiration in the art of taste-tingling culinary conservation. It will appeal to young families seeking inventive ways to sneak greens into their kids meals. Athletes will discover new ways to enrich familiar foods to their advantage, benefiting in performance, recovery, immunity and longevity.

Barton Seaver is a widely celebrated restauranteur and sustainable seafood advocate, now he embarks on a new chapter of culinary conservation—applying his passion and pioneering approach to seagreens.

Q/A with Barton Seaver (Interview by Inga Yandell)

You give seaweed a new shade by rephrasing it as Seagreens, how does this help bridge cultural and conceptual stigmas?

More often than not, our experience of seaweed is limited to the detritus washed upon the shore, the result of tide and storm. By changing the name, we align Sea Greens with other greens such as the ubiquitous kale. This sets it up as part of a known culinary category.

What other methods of initiation and integration do you explore in this book?

The book has almost 100 recipes—from lasagna and baked treats to smoothies and sea greens with bacon. There’s a gateway recipe for everyone.

As an unfamiliar ingredient what are the common mistakes which put people off?
Some sea greens have a strong flavor. They don’t need to be the center of the plate ingredient. Start slow, experiment, and find what works for you.

What are the most interesting ways the flavours and nutrition of seaweeds are utilized by cultures who embrace it as a staple in their diet?

Sea greens can be found throughout history and throughout the globe. The most recognizable is in Asian cuisines, but I discovered many older Maine residents recalled their mothers making “Blancmange”—a traditional pudding dessert similar to flan.

How are the distinct tastes and textures of edible algae’s influencing culinary innovation?

Chefs are always looking for a great “new” ingredient. Sea greens are very versatile and can come with a great story if you find a local grower.

What is the environmental impact of sea green harvest and cultivation?

Sea greens create a “carbon sink” and actually restore the environment they grow in! You can feel good about eating sea greens on an environmental as well as health level. (Read more on page 145 ‘Superfood Seagreens’).

What should consumers consider when purchasing sea greens?

Try to find seagreen products that are labeled with the name of the species and have been tested for heavy metals and contamination. Kelp varieties are the best bet.

Barton encourages us to be adventurous and bold with our foods and to respect the resources which nourish us. In Australia seafood is served at Easter or Christmas time but instead of prawns why not celebrate plantfoods of the sea!

Learn more about Seagreens and Sustainable Seafood at: www.bartonseaver.org

Inga Yandell
Explorer and media producer, passionate about nature, culture and travel. Combining science and conservation with investigative journalism to provide resources and opportunities for creative exploration.