How far back does eating seaweed go?
For many chefs, restaurants and foodies in the Western world, eating and cooking with seaweed is a relatively new phenomenon. It was only in the last decade or so that Western countries have started wising up to the wide range of benefits eating seaweed for health has, thanks to its nutritious share of antioxidants, amino acids and phenols.
But organic seaweed is hardly a 21st century commodity. Eastern cultures have been chowing down on this nutritious green and reaping its benefits for at least centuries, if not thousands of years. Which begs the question, how far back does our fascination with seaweed go? How long is the history of seaweed?
The short answer is that nobody knows for sure, there is no precise start date that we can start counting from. But current research seems to suggest that our relationship with seaweed goes all the way back to the beginning of our species!
"The seashore is where all our stories start. It's understood that present-day humans evolve in littoral spaces, where the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish and shellfish, originally from seaweed, were needed to evolve complex nervous systems and big brains. Which is to say: eating seaweed [...] was what made us us," writes Rachel Khong, an author with the food journal Lucky Peach, who spent a summer harvesting edible seaweed. "We can't be sure how long human begins have been eating seaweed — whatever archeological proof of seaweed that might've existed has long since broken down and disappeared — but by most educated guesses it is a very, very long time. The oldest proof we have is the seaweed found in mortars in southern Chile dating to 12,000 BCE."
As Liz Core, a writer for Grist, adds, eating seaweed predates humanity by even longer, as the proteins in this ocean plant have essentially formed the building blocks for all marine life on Earth.
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