Seaweed gastronomy: EU and Alga4Food brings algae to Portuguese dinner tables
In a world where food resources are becoming scarce, conventional agriculture faces challenges in feeding 7 billion people and fish resources are under pressure, algae are one promising route to an affordable global food supply at low environmental costs.
But whereas seaweed and other algae are a popular ingredient in Asian cuisine, European consumption and production of this green gold of the sea could use a major boost.
It is against this backdrop that the EU has provided financial support to the Alga4Food, among other projects. Since 2017, the Alga4Food aims to explore the benefits of edible macro algae (seaweed) from the Portuguese coast and promotes their use in Portuguese family cooking.
The Alga4Food team brings the worlds of science and gastronomy together. They first analysed different types of seaweed to understand their flavour and nutritional value, and find the best ways to conserve them. Next, the team developed suggestions for their culinary use. They looked at similarities between seaweeds and traditional Portuguese foodstuffs like cabbage, sea cucumbers and goose barnacles, and suggested which kinds of seaweed might work as substitutes for these ingredients in traditional dishes.
The recipes all look delicious – you can find them in the two cookbooks on Alga4food website. The project has also resulted in a series of seminars and cookery demonstrations.
The project was supported by the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF), in particular for the acquisition of new analytical equipment, the development of new food products and their evaluation via sensory analysis. The funding also allowed establishing a multidisciplinary partnership between the chemistry department at the Universidade Nova in Lisbon; CIIMAR – the Interdisciplinary Centre for Marine and Environmental Research; associations of fishers and gatherers of shellfish; the University of Aveiro; the University of Coimbra; and the company NMT, which specialises in technology and innovation.
2020 is the last year of the project and many of the tasks are being finalized. However, because seaweeds are seasonal and the harvest period has unfortunately coincided with the peak of the corona crisis, final results might only be available later.
Banner copy right: University of Tartu.