It is officially soup season. My stockpot is staking a permanent position on the stove top, and I just bought a large supply of dried kombu.
What is kombu, and what does it have to do with soup?
Kombu is a kind of sea cabbage, otherwise known as seaweed. It is a natural flavor enhancer that offers huge health benefits for its tiny size. Sea vegetables are one of the most abundant food families on Earth, yet they are surprisingly underused in American cuisine.
Kombu is known for reducing blood cholesterol and hypertension. It is high in iodine, which is essential for thyroid functioning; iron, which helps carry oxygen to the cells; calcium, which builds bones and teeth; as well as vitamins A and C, which support eyes and immunity, respectively.
Kombu has an almost magical ability to render beans more digestible and less gas-producing. But it isn’t magic: Kombu contains enzymes that help break down the raffinose sugars in beans, which are the gas-producing culprits. Once they are broken down, we are able to absorb more of the nutrients, and we can enjoy these legumes without as many intestinal complaints.