Nori (dried roast seaweed)...
Nori is a seaweed that has been dried, roasted and pressed into thin sheets. In this versatile form it is used prolifically in Japan and throughout the world. Seen most commonly with sushi rolls (maki), nori is also used in many different ways for everything from soups to snacks. It is estimated that the Japanese alone use around 9 billion sheets per year. That's a lot of nori!
Full of goodness:
Not only is nori versatile and extremely tasty, it is also very good for you. Nori is rich in protein and in vitamins A, B, and C. It is also abundant in nutrients, most notably calcium and iron. It's no wonder that nori is so popular throughout the world.
How is nori made?
Most of the nori in Japan is grown in the Sendai region on the north coast. Here there are beautifully unspoiled pine covered islands known as Matsushima. Around there islands there are many sheltered shallows of pure cold water, the ideal conditions for growing seaweed. Traditionally seaweed was gathered from the wild. These days seaweed if farmed due to great demand.
The method of seaweed farming is fantastic. Instead of using modern technology the farmer uses his knowledge of the tides. Two large bamboo poles are fastened deep into the sea bed to stretch and support nets made of woven rope. In the cold winter season the seaweed grows until it has covered the entire net. The farmer positions the net so that it remains above the surface of the water during low tide. During low tide the seaweed absorbs the sunlight for photosynthesis, giving the seaweed the energy it needs for growth. When the tide comes in the seaweed is then washed below the seas surface where it replenishes the water it needs for growth. The seaweed is harvested in January and February. Gathering the seaweed is from the nets is done by hand, then washed in the sea once more before it is washed in fresh water. If you were to visit this region in north Japan during these times you would be able to see the harvest and the long stretches of bamboo frames which are used to dry the seaweed in the sun. People have been farming seaweed in this way now for well over 300 years. Much off the harvest is then shipped off to factories to be pressed into the sheets and packaged. In this state the nori is ready to be shipped out to shops throughout Japan and worldwide, ready to hit the shelves.
When buying nori, you should always make sure that it has not been damaged as the sheets are very delicate. I always prefer to buy the packets with resealable tops to keep it fresh. If left exposed to the air, nori very quickly looses its crispiness and becomes withered. If you're wondering what the little bag is in your packet of nori, it is in fact silicone. This is placed inside each packet to absorb the moisture in the air, so do NOT open or eat it please. Most sushi chefs have their own boxes for storing the nori, some of them highly decorative but it all about keeping the sheets fresh and crispy.