Kombu -- the Laminaria species of the kelp family -- is a variety of seaweed that brings a diverse range of nutrient, flavor and digestibility benefits to the table. Fresh or dried kombu can be used in a variety of bean, salad, soup and pickle dishes. It can also be an ingredient for sauces and stocks, or enjoyed on its own to introduce health benefits into your diet.
Kombu is a sea vegetable most commonly used to make Dashi (stock). Dashi is the base of many Japanese dishes and valued as a vital and richly flavored ingredient, and is indispensible to Japanese cuisine. Kombu is also used to soften beans and makes their protein more digestible.
Kombu is grown on nets hung between posts secured on the shallow ocean bottom off the northern shore of the Shandong Peninsula in North China, the closest point to Japan in China. The Kombu spores attach themselves to the nets naturally so no actual cultivation is necessary and no fertilizer or herbicide is used.
Kombu is used in Japanese cuisines as one of the three main ingredients needed to make dashi, a soup stock. Kombu dashi is made by putting either whole dried or powdered kombu in cold water and heating it to near-boiling. The softened kombu is commonly eaten after cooking or is sliced and used to make tsukudani, a dish that is simmered in soy sauce and mirin.
Kombu may be pickled with sweet-and-sour flavoring, cut into small strips about 5 or 6 cm long and 2 cm wide. These are often eaten as a snack with green tea. It is often included when cooking beans, putatively to add nutrients and improve their digestibility.
Kombu is also used to prepare a seasoning for rice to be made into sushi.
Traditional Okinawan cuisine relies heavily on kombu as a part of the diet; this practice began in the Edo period. Okinawa uses more kombu per household than any other prefecture. In the 20th century, a way to cultivate kombu was discovered and it became cheap and readily available.
Calcium and Iron
Calcium and iron are two minerals naturally present in kombu. Calcium is an abundant mineral in the body that primarily serves skeletal functions. Recommended calcium intakes are 1,000 milligrams daily for adults 19 to 50. Just 2 tablespoons, or 10 grams, of kombu contain 16.8 milligrams of calcium, or approximately 1.7 percent of the daily recommended amount. Iron, a component of enzymes and proteins, plays critical roles in oxygen transport. The recommended dietary intakes for men 19 and older and women over 51 is 8 milligrams a day. Women 19 to 50 years of age require 18 milligrams daily. A 10-gram sample of kombu contains 0.3 milligrams of iron.
Kombu has the highest iodine content among seaweeds consumed in Japan. Iodine is an essential nutrient vital to hormone production and normal thyroid function. The recommended dietary allowance for adults is approximately 150 micrograms daily. According to a 2011 article published in "Thyroid Research," samples of 10 species of kombu from around the world averaged 1,542 micrograms per gram of dried kombu. The Linus Pauling Institute reports that 1/4 ounce of dried kombu can contain more than 4,500 micrograms.
Flavor and Digestibility
Kombu has been used for centuries as a flavor enhancer. In addition to the commonly recognized salty, sweet, sour and bitter taste qualities, kombu contributes a fifth taste, umami. This savory fifth taste is the result of taste receptors for glutamate -- or glutamic acid -- naturally present in kombu. Kombu also increases the digestibility of foods. The glutamic acid present in kombu helps break down the tough fibers in beans. Adding a soaked piece of kombu to the beginning stages of any dish can also introduce additional minerals into the diet. Kombu can also be used in the sprouting process to increase mineral content.
Other Benefits and Considerations
Other potential benefits include blood purifying, alkalizing, chelating, detoxifying, weight-loss and antioxidant properties. As with any food, the quality of the seaweed depends on the source. Other factors, such as exposure to light, depth, temperature, tides, shores and the quantity of pollutants in the water, affect the quality of the kombu. Intake of excessive amounts of iodine can cause adverse reactions, including thyroid and skin problems. Contrary to some claims, research has not yet proved that sea vegetables, including kombu, can prevent cancer, cure certain diseases, or help with blood purifying, detoxifying or weight loss.
Botanical name: Laminaria japonica
aka: kun bu
Product of: China
Notes: Non-GMO verified. Gluten-Free. Non-irradiated
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