Vegetables do not grow only on the soil, they do so also in the sea. We are talking about marine algae, a product that has been consumed in Asia since time immemorial and that is slowly becoming popular in Spanish cuisine.
In the last decade, the production of these aquatic vegetables has skyrocketed, growing by 248% in Spain. This is the largest increase in the European Union, according to the European Observatory of Seafood, EUMOFA.
The latest report from this institution ranks Spain as the third largest producer of algae in the EU, with 2,154 tonnes harvested in 2014. Although far from the figures of France (58,812 tonnes) and Ireland (29,600), Spain is already the main EU supplier of fresh seaweed for human consumption, since French and Irish algae are mainly used to produce condiments, fertilizers, cosmetics and other processed products.
"20 years ago, there was hardly any market in Spain, but things have changed. Although we still lack a culinary culture to make them popular, the demand has grown a lot since we started in the 90's," says Rosa Miras, co-founder of Porto Muiños, a Galician company that is a pioneer in the sector, and which currently harvests "between 400 and 450 tons per year."
The bulk of its production goes to the domestic market, but it also exports to Europe and Singapore, and is gaining ground in the US. "We process algae in all possible ways: we supply them fresh, mostly for restaurants and select fruit stores, but they are also shipped salted, freeze-dried, frozen, dehydrated or canned."