Algae in Galicia have been traditionally used for agricultural uses. The riverside have always collected them upon arrival at the coast, after the storms, to use them as fertilizer, as a corrector of the pH of the land, and even as food for livestock.
Of these uses, very widespread in times past, it was passed at the beginning of the 20th century to its industrial exploitation for the opting of phycocolloids: agarophytes (E-406), alginates (E-401 to E-405), and mainly carrageenans (E-407). Carrageenans are sulfated polysaccharides highly appreciated by various types of industries for their numerous applications, usually food: as gelling agent, thickener Y stabilizer. See the list of ingredients in your dairy dessert and you may be surprised.
But only in times of great famine the Galicians had used algae for their own consumption.
Now all this is changing. In recent decades, the demand for algae for human food It is on the rise. Galicians know it and are already orienting the exploitation of this marine resource towards these sectors. The canning industry, together with the interest of the hospitality sector to diversify its offer, drives the new market orientation that does not leave the upward trend, both for the quantities collected, and for the number of species collected.
Thus, in 2001, no less than 10 species were harvested, the most collected being the "Undaria pinnatifida" (Wakame) (8,860 Kg), "Himanthalia eleongata" (Sea Spaghetti) (6,050 Kg) and laminaria (Kombu, Sugar Kombu) (7790 Kg).
The most appreciated algae for cooking are:
1.- Wakame: (Undaria pinnatifida) Also called gulf. Very appreciated in the oriental culture and very abundant in the coasts of Galicia. Rich in calcium, iodine, protein and fiber. It is one of the most appropriate to consume raw in salads or in soups, rice, with other vegetables, baked, simply boiled, stuffed with empanadas, etc.
2.- Sea Spaghetti: (Himanthalia elongata) Also called belts or ribbons by the riverside. Lush brown seaweed, very tasty and frequent in deep coastlines and rough waters. Rich in fiber and iron. It can be taken both raw and cooked and is one of the algae with more personality among the Atlantic varieties.
3.- Kombu: (Laminaria ochroleuca - Laminaria hyperborea - Laminaria saccharina) Soga, Toco or Faixa. Large, brown and fleshy consistency. It can be used in cooking to flavor or as another vegetable. Its main feature is that it is rich in glutamic acid that enhances the taste of other foods. In addition, it produces a satiating effect and is rich in minerals, especially calcium and magnesium. The "Laminaria saccharina" has a slightly sweet taste and is therefore called sugar Kombu.
4.- Dulse: (Palmaria palmata) It is a red seaweed that can be taken both raw in salads and cooked in soups. It is rich in vitamin C, which is why it was much appreciated at other times by the sailors who collected and ate it to avoid scurvy. In addition, it is rich in protein and potassium.
5.- Nori: (Porphyra umbilicalis) Also called Touca. It is a small seaweed and many folds. In Japan, it is grown and processed in the form of pressed sheets for use in maqui sushi and other Japanese cuisine. In Galicia it is wild at low tide. It is usually sold dehydrated and in flakes. It has an intense flavor and can be used raw or lightly toasted to later crumble it on the plate. It stands out in proteins, vitamin A and vitamin B12.
6.- Osmundea: (Osmundea pinnatifida) Known in the Anglo-Saxon world as Pepper Dulse. It is a very small seaweed but with an intense smell of the sea. Very difficult to catch as it is under the rocks where barnacles are raised.
7.- Codium: (Codium tomentosum) Carrasca, Sea branch. Meaty, flavor and even texture reminiscent of that of a barnacle. It is scarce enough. It can be eaten as a vegetable and especially in tortillas.
8.- Sea lettuce: (Ulva rigid) Xebra or Lavacán. It is an algae that reminds a lot of lettuce in its appearance, although its flavor is more reminiscent of crustaceans. It can be taken raw in salad or as a side dish of seafood. It is also dehydrated, which can be added to casseroles and stews, or rehydrated with water and salt.
9.- Atlantic Agar-agar: (Gelidium sesquipedale) Seaweed Jelly. It is the highest quality marine jelly. It has a neutral taste. It is usually used as a thickener and gelling agent (E-406) in desserts or to thicken sauces, soups, stews or purees. It is also widely used in research (microbiology). It is satiating and poor in calories. It is sold in dried slices that can be cut into julienne and be part of salads and side dishes.
10.- Irish moss: (Chondrus crispus) Also called Carrapucho or Chicken leg. It is used mostly for the industrial production of carrageenans, but can also be used in cooking as a thickener in soups and sauces, but especially in desserts (E-407). It is sold dehydrated and salted.
12.- Verdello or Verdin (Enteromorpha Intestinalis) It is a green algae from the order of the Ulvales. Frequent in estuaries and rocky platforms that receive fresh water contributions. It can be eaten in soup and dried leaves can be used as Nori.