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The Spirulina Revolution: A Nutritional Powerhouse at Your Fingertips

blogpost written by CELL volunteer Noémi Csipak

Spirulina, the age-old blue-green algae, has recently gained the spotlight as a superfood. While it's been endorsed by fitness gurus and flooded our social media feeds, what's the real story behind this green wonder? Why is it suddenly on everyone's plate? The answer might surprise you – spirulina has been here all along, and you can even cultivate it yourself!


Which came first, the chicken or the egg? The answer is SPIRULINA!!!

Spirulina, a blue-green algae, being more than 3.5 billion years old, is one of the oldest known organisms on Earth. It has played a crucial role shaping the planet's early atmosphere through photosynthesis, which eventually led to the oxygenation of the Earth's atmosphere.


Why Should You Eat It?

Spirulina is a nutritional powerhouse! Packed with protein, vitamins, and minerals, it's known to boost antiviral activity, lower cholesterol, reduce cancer risk, enhance the immune system, and possess anti-aging and neuroprotective properties.

So what`s the hold up ? If it's so good, why has it not become a fundamental ingredient in our classic dishes?

Spirulina's natural habitat is in alkaline, brackish, or saline waters of tropical and subtropical regions like Chad, Ethiopia, Kenya, Peru, Mexico, and India, where it's part of traditional cuisine.

credit :www.dlt-spl.co.jp

However, it only reached the Western world due to its rediscovery in the 1960s when a Belgian botanist named Jean Leonard rediscovered spirulina in Chad. This led to extensive research, with experts like Jean-Paul Jourdan recognizing its exceptional nutritional value, dubbing it the "food of the future." Various harvesting techniques were analysed and studied. For example, the Kanembu population's method of collecting spirulina from Lake Chad was recognized as the most efficient. The women of the Kanembu work together to collect the spirulina from the water in clay baskets, they then dig holes in the sand and pour the liquid through a twine basket into the hole. The hot sand does the finishing steps by filtering the dried spirulina.


credit: Batello, C., Marzot, M. and Touré A.H. (2004)

Cultivation of Spirulina:

With a simple and cost-effective cultivation method, spirulina has become popular in the DIY eco-community. It's an excellent way to combat commercialised foods, reduce spending, and lower environmental impact by relying less on store-bought protein products.

The high cost of quality spirulina often deters buyers. Whereas lesser expensive products are typically from less regulated industries; more expensive and higher quality production comes from highly controlled facilities. Such industrial production of spirulina is commonly made using contaminated water (usually full of heavy metals). As well, the drying process requires very high temperatures and it therefore loses many of its nutrients, negatively affecting the taste. The overall production is faster and cheaper, however the final outcome does not compare to well handled algae. Quality spirulina typically has a mild, earthy, and slightly nutty taste.


credit : freepik


Home cultivation can be done with very little energy and time invested, using recycled tools and mostly cheap or even free ingredients. Somewhat off-putting, is that spirulina can even be made using urine as a nitrogen source to feed the culture. The algae breaks down the urine, and the nitrogen works to build protein blocks. However, it is important to remember that consuming spirulina fed with urine does not have a urine taste and maintains the final product. Actually, this is a good illustration of how useful urine can be, that it is in fact not a waste, as typically viewed. The cultivation of spirulina can be considered a tool for environmental action.






How to start your own spirulina cultivation:


Materials:

  • Fresh spirulina culture (can be purchased from Etsy or Local farms)

  • Transparent container (10-20 litres)

  • Filtered tap water or rainwater

  • Polyester or nylon cloth (40 microns) for harvesting

  • Bicarbonate of soda and sea salt (for the culture medium)

  • Mineral food (Potassium Nitrate, Monoammonium phosphate, Iron Sulphate, Potassium Sulphate (optional), Magnesium sulphate (optional))

credit: spirulinasociety.org

OR

  • Natural food (1l White vinegar, 100g rusty nails, 5 to 10 lemons or 1 tbsp citric acid (called Iron juice, mix, leave for 10 days, it’s ready))

  • Nitrogen source (urine, compost juice, or fertilizers)



Process:

  1. Prepare the growth container by dissolving bicarbonate of soda and sea salt in water until the pH reaches around 9-11.5.

  2. Add the spirulina culture and place it in optimal conditions with sunlight or artificial light for photosynthesis, stirring occasionally.

  3. As the algae multiplies, it will form a dense biomass. Harvest it using cloth to filter, then dry or consume it.

  4. After harvesting the production, replenish your container with mineral or natural food and add nitrogen to support more algae reproduction.


credit: spirulinasociety.org


Alternatives to home cultivation:

Certified spirulina farms offer products with similar quality spirulina for purchase. In certain European countries, such as France, small scale spirulina farms are common. Due to strict regulation for legal production, such spirulina is high quality but quite often costly. However, such purchases support local producers and environmental action surrounding spirulina products.


credit: Global Resource Center for Spirulina Algae

Spirulina is the real green deal! Incorporating it into your life, whether through cultivation or purchasing from conscious producers, supports a worthy cause. Take action and embrace the spirulina revolution!




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