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Wakame

The meaning of «wakame»

Wakame (Undaria pinnatifida) is a species of kelp native to cold, temperate coasts of the northwest Pacific Ocean. As an edible seaweed, it has a subtly sweet, but distinctive and strong flavour and texture. It is most often served in soups and salads.

Wakame has long been collected for food in East Asia,[1] and sea farmers in Japan have cultivated wakame since the eighth century (Nara period).[2] As of 2018[update], the Invasive Species Specialist Group has listed the species on its list of 100 worst globally invasive species.[3]

The primary common name is derived from the Japanese name wakame (ワカメ, わかめ, 若布, 和布).[4][5]

In Old Japanese, me stood for edible seaweeds in general as opposed to mo standing for algae. In kanji, such as 海藻, 軍布 and 和布 were applied to transcribe the word.[8] Among seaweeds, wakame was likely most often eaten, therefore me especially meant wakame.[9] It expanded later to other seaweeds like kajime, hirome (kombu), arame, etc. Wakame is derived from waka + me (若布, lit. young seaweed). If this waka is a eulogistic prefix, same as the tama of tamagushi, wakame likely stood for seaweeds widely in ancient ages.[8] In Man'yōshū, in addition to 和可米 and 稚海藻 (both are read as wakame), nigime (和海藻, soft wakame) can be seen. Besides, tamamo (玉藻, lit. beautiful algae), which often appeared in Man'yo-shu, may be wakame depending on poems.

The earliest appearance in Western documents is probably in Nippo Jisho (1603), as Vacame.[8]

In 1867 the word "wakame" appeared in an English-language publication, A Japanese and English Dictionary, by James C. Hepburn.[10]

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

Studies conducted at Hokkaido University have found that a compound in wakame known as fucoxanthin can help burn fatty tissue.[11] Studies in mice have shown that fucoxanthin induces expression of the fat-burning protein UCP1 that accumulates in fat tissue around the internal organs. Expression of UCP1 protein was significantly increased in mice fed fucoxanthin. Wakame is also used in topical beauty treatments. See also Fucoidan.

Wakame is a rich source of eicosapentaenoic acid, an omega-3 fatty acid. At over 400 mg/(100 kcal) or almost 1 mg/kJ, it has one of the higher nutrient-to-energy ratios for this nutrient, and among the very highest for a vegetarian source.[12] A typical 10–20 g (1–2 tablespoon) serving of wakame contains roughly 16 to 31 kJ (3.75 to 7.5 kcal) and provides 15–30 mg of omega-3 fatty acids. Wakame also has high levels of sodium, calcium, iodine, thiamine and niacin.

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