Kombu (Laminaria digitata)
Kombu has been an irreplaceable staple in Asian cuisines for thousands of years as it has a deep umami taste. Moreover, it is considered a source of longevity because of its high iodine content, balanced content of minerals and trace elements, such as iron, calcium, potassium, carotene, phosphorus, and high vitamin content (B, A, C, K, D and E). It is also a natural source of glutamic acid, producing antioxidant glutathin, which is able to bind free radicals and assist with sugar and fat metabolism. It can be used in stripes in cooking, flaked in a spice mixture, milled as a substitute for a salt or powdered and blended in smoothies.
Kombu rehydrates well after 15-20 min in cold water and softens after 30-40 min simmering.
Kombu can be fried, grilled, baked or stir-fried. It is perfect for wrapping around a fish before grilling. When used in cooking legumes, it takes out their gassiness.
Kombu has a deep umami flavour but at the same time has sweet, salty and smoky flavours. Kombu serves as a base in Asian soup stocks preparations, i.e., miso, dashi and ramen.
Kombu has profound UMAMI taste, the 5th taste, caused by its naturally high glutamic acid content. UMAMI taste activates better when heated, or sprinkled on any warm dishes, for example on rice, noodles, potatos, couscous, meat, pizza, grilled cheese, and eggs.
The prime time to pick Kombu is from March to June; the blades are too small before March and epiphytes (animals and other seaweed) settle onto the blades after June. It has a long shelf life when stored in dry areas.
Kelp (Saccharida latissima)
Kelp is a brown seaweed consisting of a single frond, growing up to 7 m long and 40 cm broad. It is found in protected bays with less wave action. Its colour changes throughout the season from dark golden brown in December to February to light brown to green in March and April. Kelp is rich on iron, potassium, calcium, sodium, magnesium, and beta- carotene. Kelp contains up to 14% of the sugar alcohol mannitol, which gets expelled onto the leaves when dried, leaving white patches on the blades as well as high level of alginates and can be used as a thickening agent.
Kelp has a sweet flavour with a hint of liquorice and it is easily used in cooking. Dry kelp has a strong umami taste and it is excellent as a taste enhancer. Sprinkle on salads, fish or pizza. Perfect in woks and soups, and can be used together with Kombu in Asian soup stock bases.
In powder form it is excellent to add kelp to bread or pasta doughs as it helps the yeasting process and ads minerals and vitamins. In fact, up to 10 % of flour can be substituted by kelp.
The young golden-brown thin leaves of kelp can be picked as early as December or January. The leaves change colour during the season to green and yellow brown. Fresh sugar kelp is best to pick before mid-April, before the epiphytic growth of other organisms disrupts the integrity of its blades. It has a long shelf life when stored in dry areas.