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Cuisine, health, cosmetics … Algae have everything to seduce

Régine Quéva regularly organizes outings to discover algae, as here on the beach of Bon-Secours in Saint-Malo. – Mr Pavard / 20 Minutes

  • Specialist seaweed, the Breton Régine Quéva released this Wednesday a practical guide on their benefits.
  • The author evokes the culinary, medicinal or cosmetic virtues of algae.
  • We discover that many algae can be consumed, raw or cooked, provided certain precautions are taken.

We admit, at the base, the seaweed inspired us contradictory feelings. On the one hand, the subtle marriage of nori seaweed, rice and raw fish to make delicious maki and sushi. On the other, the stench of
green algae and
Sargassum gathering respectively on the coast of Brittany and West Indies. The publication this Wednesday of a book entitled The super-powers of algae (Larousse ed.) was so timely to refine our eyes.

In a country with a car late for the Japanese, Koreans and Chinese, who have been consuming it for centuries, the author, Régine Quéva, is one of the few people who contributed to the current craze. For several years, this Breton autodidact has been trying to convert the public to the benefits of seaweed by preaching the right word during programs and outings discovered.

In this practical guide, she once again praises the culinary and medicinal virtues of these funny marine plants that still contain many secrets. So when we learned about Régine Quéva coming to Saint-Malo, we did not hesitate to put on our boots to pick and taste the seaweed with her on Bon-Secours beach. The perfect opportunity to defeat conventional wisdom.

Are all seaweeds edible?

Yes … in theory, according to Régine Quéva. "All macroalgae [les algues visibles à l’œil nu, contrairement aux micro-algues] are edible, but they are not all good taste and some are not classified food algae, "says the author. Thus, of the 700 to 800 varieties of algae present in French waters, only about ten are authorized for sale.

If their consumption does not pose a risk of poisoning, two conditions must however be respected. On the one hand, taste only live algae, that is to say, fixed on a rock, and not algae stranded on the beach or drifting, because they capture heavy metals. On the other hand, pick them in healthy waters – checking if necessary the quality of water near the town hall – and thus avoid the ports.

Do seaweed taste good?

You have probably already tasted seaweed, especially if you are in love with Japanese cuisine. The
nori surrounds the makis, while the miso soup is often composed of royal kombu and wakame, a brown alga with the "exceptional oyster flavor", according to Régine Quéva. You may even be unaware of it, the gelling molecules of red algae offering an alternative to animal gelatin. Agar-agar, for example, comes from various algae such as gracilaria and gelidium. But whether they are green, brown or red, raw or cooked according to the species, the food algae offer a range of flavors as fine as varied.

If it is impossible to cite all the recipes of the book, we have been able to test some of them made by Catherine Le Joncour, head of the restaurant Ty Mad in Plestin-les-Grèves (Côtes-d'Armor) and specialist in the kitchen with seaweed, from starters to desserts. Salad léonarde with sea beans, parmesan pannacotta and chondrus crispus or sardine rillettes with enteromorph or ao-nori (not to be confused with nori) … The verdict is largely positive, algae acting as a "flavor enhancer" According to the restaurateur, even if they should be used sparingly – 5 grams per day, no more.

Are green algae and sargasses toxic?

Green tides on Breton beaches, such as the recent invasions of Sargassum in Guadeloupe and Martinique, have anchored a negative image of these algae in the collective unconscious. But these seaweeds are dangerous and only emit hydrogen sulphide when they rot in the sun. When harvested on a rock, sea lettuce (its generic name) has enormous nutritional qualities thanks to its contribution of iron, magnesium, sulphated proteins, calcium and vitamin B12.

And even with drifting green algae, "we can do a lot of things, for example to recover and dry them with seawater to use as an excellent feed for animals (cows, chickens, fish …)," says Régine QUEVA. As for Sargassum, they can be "transformed into a compostable biomaterial," she adds.

What are the benefits of algae?

Algae are "nutritional bombs rich in vitamins, minerals, trace elements and even proteins," says Régine Quéva. Depending on the species, they are thus useful for the central nervous system, thyroid, digestive system, blood, skeleton, muscle mass, overweight or wasting. Although it is difficult to establish the cause-and-effect relationship, the Japanese – one of the peoples with the longest life expectancy – consider that the consumption of algae reduces the risk of disease. cardiovascular, diabetes and certain cancers.

Régine Quéva also cites "anti-obesity diets based on brown algae, which provide a sense of satiety" or "anti-tartar properties of royal kombu". Let's not forget the interest of seaweed for cosmetics. Red algae are used in particular as moisturizing, antioxidant and anti-aging ingredients and are also present in pharmacy, in the form of food supplements.

Can anyone eat seaweed?

Only hyperthyroid patients and people allergic to iodine should avoid consuming algae. Some brown algae, such as kelp, concentrate a lot of iodine present in seawater. "It is therefore necessary to whiten them before consuming them, to avoid an overload of iodine", explains Régine Quéva.

But it is nevertheless reassuring: "fresh algae lose much of their iodine during rinsing" and with drying and rehydration. It ends with a comparison: "do you know that by consuming three oysters, you exceed the recommended daily allowances? "

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