Spirulina is a microalgae. with a specific color that stains any preparation made with it. Many do not know that it is grown in Lleida, Malaga and other parts of Spain.
“Fresh spirulina retains its properties better and does not have the toasted notes that give it an earthy flavor, as is the case with powdered versions or tablets,” says Helena Martin, a researcher who leads the CETT-UB project, which studies the organic production of this food and its use in gastronomy.
Have high proteinin 70% of its composition, vitamins A, B12, B1 and B2, minerals, omega-3s and antioxidants Here are some of the qualities found by institutions such as the World Health Organization (WHO) highlighting spirulina as the food of the future.
Spirulina is not very new because lives on Earth for 3.5 billion years, and for centuries it was part of the diet of African countries, and in Mexico it was already consumed by the Aztecs. It is found in rivers, estuaries and lakes, and from there these peoples extracted it, which gave it various uses.
Joan Sole, manager Organa Spirulina company located in Almaselles (Lleida), explains his latest harvest. “This cyanobacterium was rediscovered by the West in the 1960s by Jean Leonard. During a stay in Central Africa, this biologist noticed that the men and women of a tribe in northern Chad were in better health and physical condition than in other nearby cities. After studying their habits, he noticed that women collected a greenish substance, which was then added to various preparations.
About 98% of consumed spirulina in the world originates from Asia either in powder and tablets. But Sole insists that the one they grow is of high quality. “We started in 2008, and shortly thereafter, we created an international group of spirulina growers for Food Sobirania, from where we spread the word about its properties in fresh form, cultivation and use in the kitchen.” They also send kits to people interested in growing.
sole produces it microalgae in artificial pools at 20-35 degrees. It grows so fast that doubling every three days. “It also uses 70 million liters less water than the same amount of lamb-derived protein, is 150 times more energy efficient, and doesn’t emit as much CO₂,” he insists.
The resulting product is not the same as the one coming from Asia. They sell spirulina in a paste format. “The taste is neutral, not as harsh as industrial powders and pills, which also usually contain colorants. Another advantage is that it retains its nutritional properties much better and is therefore more complete.”
The most practical way to include this microalgae paste in your daily diet is to spread it on toast or add it to yogurt. From the company they are looking for sell cheese and chocolate containing spirulinato boost consumption in homes and restaurants.
“Fresh spirulina can be used to enhance the nutritional value of a variety of foods, not just as a supplement. Due to its emulsifying power, it can replace eggs, and mixed with butter can become a vegan-friendly concentrated mayonnaise with an intense green color,” explains Helena Martin, Principal Investigator of the CETT-UB Spirulina Project.
The Culinary Research Center of Barcelona tried to introduce it into sweet recipese.g. mint chocolate ice cream using spirulina not only for the color it provides, but also for the added nutritional value, commented the expert.
Cheesecake is another recipe that CETT-UB has developed using these microalgae. “We noticed that the stability of spirulina is higher when the recipe includes sugar,” says Martin. Another finding from the center is that the product retains its vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and color better when handled cold. On the other hand, if added to fermented foods such as yogurt, koji, tempeh, sake, amazake, or kombucha, its properties are multiplied many times over.
body spirulina This the only Spanish company who is selling this fresh microalgaebut more and more growers are being encouraged to grow it and put it on the market in a variety of formats.
Farmer Alejandro Carrillo, founder of Revival Spirulina, started producing it in 2019 in Coin (Malaga). “We get it using traditional processes and dehydrate it at a low temperature, below 44 degrees, so that it does not lose its properties,” he explains. He insists that the drying process is very different from industrial spirulina, which is spray dried. “They grind it at 180°C to make it dry faster, but that process oxidizes it, negating its antioxidant power and giving it a bad taste.”
Phycocyanin is one of the most interesting antioxidants this microalgae has., this is what gives it its color and is found only in this food. “By drying spirulina at low temperature and turning it into thin noodles, this very useful substance does not spoil,” insists Carrillo, who sells his product in local markets. These strands can be added to salads, soups, smoothies and yogurts. “Its taste is mild. It may remind you of seeds.”
Carrillo points out that Spirulina helps remove heavy metals from the body, an effect that can only be obtained if these microalgae have been grown in non-toxic water. In addition, since it is not a medicine, it can be consumed continuously without problems with quantity. “While the recommendation is 3 to 6 grams per day, if we eat more, the body throws out what it doesn’t need.
Both producers are aware that there is still a long way to go before the Spaniards will regularly consume spirulina in their diet. But they are clear that This product will be key to feeding future. “Not just because of the amount of protein that is sustainable, but also because of the array of essential amino acids, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and anti-inflammatory properties that it presents,” Solé concludes.