The algae form a diverse set of aquatic vegetables with an extended use in food (against what we might at first seem) because they are important source of vitamins, minerals and fiber and even proteins and some, such as agar-agar are used as gelling agents in the food industry. They are marketed in many cases dehydrated or preserved, some as infusions or condiments. They are also available in fresh. Although algae consumption is much more popular in Asia than in Europe, interest is growing because of its nutritional and organoleptic qualities. Canned or brine allows these qualities to be preserved, offering a product ready for consumption. The following are the most commonly used varieties:

  • Sea lettuce (Ulva rigida)
  • Nori (Purpurea Porphyra)
  • Sea spaghetti (Himanthalia elongata)
  • Wakame (Undaria pinnatifida)
  • Algae (Laminaria ochroleuca)
  • Sugar algae (Laminaria saccharina)
  • Irish moss (Chondrus crispus)

The wakame is a dark brown-golden seaweed, which can reach more than 1,5 meters. It has at the base a structure similar to a very branched root from which emerges a flattened stem (up to 3cm wide) and of very variable length. This stem is the middle nerve of a large lamina (with a similar function as the leaves of the plants) divided into smaller and symmetrical laminae. It grows in the winter and early spring, on the rocks of the lower coast and below the level of the tide, in places moderately exposed to the waves. Can reach 25 meters deep. It grows well below the mussel beds. It is a species very little exploited in Galicia. The small harvests that are made take place in the low waters, in a totally manual way. In Galicia was introduced recently, possibly with the Japanese oyster. The use of the wakame goes to more in the diets of the Europeans. It is cultivated mainly in the French Brittany, by its high commercial value. This is due to its characteristics: high content of proteins, vitamins, minerals and trace elements. Good digestibility, presence of all essential amino acids and low in fat and assimilable sugars. It can be used as a substitute or companion of vegetables, salads, as a garnish or as an ingredient of various dishes and soups, for its taste, aroma and quality as a flavor enhancer. It is sold dehydrated or previously scalded and salted, in sheets, in small fragments (“cut wakame”) or pulverized. Dry algae are rehydrated in water and then they look fresh.

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Montse Gonzalez