Sea Vegetables, Breast Cancer, & Much More


This is a photo of harvesting sea vegetables from the Maine Coast Sea Vegetable Website (See below)

Several years ago, after a few weeks as a bed and breakfast cook in Maine (when I fell in love with that state), my friend Alice picked me up and we went sightseeing in the northern part of Maine. My goal was to visit Maine Coast Sea Vegetables (MCSV), a place that sent us some of the products for a salt free seasoning that we were creating at our health food business that my ex-husband and I owned in C.PA.

The “factory” was located near the water where the seaweeds were harvested. It was a very low tech operation,what we would now call a green company.  The seaweeds were, and still are, harvested by hand and are hung on large clips to dry in the rafters of the building.  Then they are stored in big boxes called coffins and used when needed for packaging. We were fascinated with the simplicity of the operation.  No chemicals, no noisy machinery, just fans to dry the seaweeds and people to package it…..a true, sustainable cottage industry.  I met one of the co-owners, Shep Erhart, and below is a quote from MCSV’s CD entitled Beautiful Foods from the Sea! An Ocean of Information about Maine Coast Sea Vegetables, which is available from the company and also through

Sustainable harvesting is the cornerstone of sustainable business practices, which is the cornerstone of MCSV. We’d soon be out of business if we coudn’t go back to the ocean’s edge each season and find new growth where we’ve been harvesting. This delicate dance with nature starts with paying attention to the elements listed below:

• seasonal evaluation
• population trends
• choosing the healthiest plants
• not taking too many

The most important is controlling greed so that we get enough and the plant community still has enough to regenerate itself. Unfortunately, not everyone operates this way. We have been working closely with the Department of Marine Resources and the Maine Legislature through the Maine Seaweed Council over the last 10 years. We’re in the process of establishing regulations and guidelines to make sure that this resource is not depleted like many of our other ocean resources. We are one of the few proactive fisheries that is encouraging legislation and regulation before there is actually a crisis. Some people are starting to listen to us and we are making some progress. Much more is yet to be done. Shep Earhart

Over the years I have incorporated sea veggies into my diet , because I learned from a nutritionist in Seattle how important they are to our diets. They were part of the Native American diet and for hundreds of years have been part of the diets of coastal countries in Europe and also in Asia.

Sea veggies such as Alaria, Dulse, Kelp, and Laver are very high major minerals such as potassium, magnesium, phosphorous and iron, are a good source of fiber, and not too shabby in the levels of major vitamins and trace minerals. However, since this month is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I thought I would excerpt some information from one of their many brochures entitled Sea Vegetables for Cancer Prevention and Treatment.

In 1983 a study was published by Jane Teas, who was then associated with Harvard School of Public Health. Ms. Teas linked  the low incidence of breast cancer in postmenopausal breast cancer women to their high intake of seaweed, especially the Laminara species, which include several kelps (kombu) and alaria (wakame). She lists several possible mechanisms for this protective trait Here are two:

1. Since Laminara is a source of non-digestible fiber, fecal bulk in increased, which decreases bowel transit time, which is associated with healthy bowels.

2. Laminara stimulates the host mediated immune response, which means it boots the immune system.

Sea veggies are also indicated as protective against other cancers, such as lung cancer. Well documented evidence indicates that certain substances or elements in seaweeds have “anti-tumor, anti-mutagenic, anti-carcinogenic and apoptosic (cell self-destruction) properties.”

Finally, Maine Coast Sea Vegetables are certified organic, and because they harvest from waters that are still considered “safe.” Here is a quote from their website:

Why Organic?
You may wonder why Maine Coast Sea Vegetables went to the trouble and expense to become certified organic by OCIA, particularly as we already tested our dried plants for the absence of heavy metals, herbicides, pesticides, and microbiological contaminants. It’s true that compared to land plants, we have little control over the growing conditions (growth environment) of our wild marine plants. But we do have choices about how, when, where, and how much we harvest – as well as how the plants are transported, dried, stored and packaged.

Some time this month I will feature recipes from the MCSV recipe book, from which I obtained much of this information. I know most people may think this is “weird food,” but there are ways to sneak it into recipes without knowing it is there, or mixing it with familiar foods so it doesn’t stand out and then freak you out.

In the meantime, check out the MCSV website: for prices, books, their CD, nutritional charts, a slide show in the works, and other interesting information.  You may just change your mind about trying veggies from the sea! ♥

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