Nori

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Nori (海苔?) is the Japanese name for various edible seaweed species of the red alga Porphyra including most notably P. yezoensis and P. tenera, sometimes called laver.[1] Finished products are made by a shredding and rack-drying process that resembles papermaking. Japan, Korea, and China are the current major producers of nori, with total production valued at up to US$2 billion per year.

Contents

History

Originally, the term nori was more generic and referred to various kinds of seaweeds including hijiki. One of the oldest descriptions about nori is dated back to around the 8th century. In the Taihō Code enacted in 701, nori was already included in the form of taxation. In Utsubo Monogatari, written around 987, nori was recognized as a common food. The original nori was formed as a paste, and the nori sheet was invented in Asakusa, Edo (contemporary Tokyo), in the Edo period through the method of Japanese paper-making.

In 1867 the word "nori" first appeared in an English-language publication — "A Japanese and English Dictionary," by James C. Hepburn.

The word nori started to be used widely in the United States, and the product (imported in dry form from Japan) became widely available at natural food stores and Asian-American grocery stores starting in the 1960s, due to the influence of the macrobiotic movement, and in the 1970s with the growing number of sushi bars and Japanese restaurants.

Production

Production and processing of nori by current methods is a highly advanced form of agriculture. The biology of Porphyra, although complicated, is well understood, and this knowledge is used to control virtually every step of the production process. Farming takes place in the sea where the Porphyra plants grow attached to nets suspended at the sea surface and where the farmers operate from boats. The plants grow rapidly, requiring about 45 days from "seeding" until the first harvest. Multiple harvests can be taken from a single seeding, typically at about ten-day intervals. Harvesting is accomplished using mechanical harvesters of a variety of configurations. Processing of raw product is mostly accomplished by highly automated machines that accurately duplicate traditional manual processing steps, but with much improved efficiency and consistency. The final product is a paper-thin, black, dried sheet of approximately 18×20 cm (7.087×7.874 in) and 3 grams in weight.

There are several grades of nori available in the United States. The most common, and least expensive, grades are imported from China, costing about six cents per sheet. At the high end, ranging up to ninety cents per sheet, are "delicate shin-nori (nori from the first of the year's several harvests) cultivated in Ariake Bay, off the island of Kyushu in Japan".[2] Some nori is available only in Japan and can cost up to US$50 per sheet.[citation needed]

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