Introduction to Nori – A Staple in Japanese Cuisine

Anyone who has eaten sushi or onigiri can appreciate the nori wrapping used to bind and flavor these delectable dishes. But what is nori and how is it made? “Nori” is the Japanese name for a group of edible seaweed that grows organically on rocks around shallow areas in cold-water oceans.

Nori Cultivation (Photo Credit: http://chiikigoto.com)

History of Japanese toasted laver, Nori

The Japanese have harvested seaweed from rocks for thousands of years using it as either food or fertilizer. During the Edo period, in the area that is now known as Tokyo, seaweed was discovered to be growing in abundance around the nearby bay and along the mouths of the rivers connecting it. This seaweed was known as “Asukasa” nori, based on the place along the Sumida River where is was frequently harvested.

With the discovery of this plant, local folks went into the shallow waters to hold their nets. Early Edo fishermen began to devise a primitive method of cultivating the seaweed during the early part of the 18th century. They drove stakes into the seabed at the mouths of rivers by the bay creating production beds for the algae to attach and grow. It was further discovered that the spores reproduced well in salty water and bloomed in fresher waters which led to the refinement of the cultivation process.

Although nori was originally eaten wet in Japan, there was a growing need to preserve the nori longer because of increased production. The solution came from another industry, paper manufacturing. By shredding the seaweed, shaping them into thin sheets, and eventually dried in the sun, the paper-thin nori kept longer and became perfect for wrapping rice.

Production of Nori

Today, nori cultivation involves several steps in its production. First is the “seed” production where male and female nori fronds …continue reading