The algae are plants that normally live in the aquatic environment and can be multicellular or unicellular. While some experts place algae in the lower plant group, others place these organisms among protists (that is, they are not considered plants, animals, or fungi).
Based on Digopaul, algae can be said to be eukaryotes since they have cells that have a true nucleus. They are also phototrophic beings: they have the ability to use sunlight as an energy source.
Instead, these organisms lack organs and tissues. Most algae nourish exclusively autotrophically, synthesizing the substances they require to subsist through non-organic elements (in this case, sunlight). However, some species also appeal to heterotrophic feeding.
The specialty of botany focused on the analysis of algae is called ficology, although it is also often mentioned as algology. It should be noted that, among the multiple genera of algae, there are several that are used by humans in different contexts.
There are algae that are used as food. The red algae of the genus Porphyra, for example, are known as nori and are frequently used in Japanese cuisine. These algae are usually dried and cut into strips so they can be used to make sushi, rolling up fish and rice.
One of the reasons why seaweed is very popular in gastronomy is that it has interesting nutritional properties. In addition, they can be used in many ways and the list of dishes in which it is used is really endless, since it is an ingredient of great importance in Chinese, Korean, Norwegian, Irish and Icelandic cuisine, in addition to the aforementioned Japanese.
It is worth mentioning that the number of algae species recognized by humans exceeds 25,000; however, only a small fraction of them can be marketed for gastronomic use. Broadly speaking, we can say that they have a considerable content of vitamins and minerals (such as magnesium, calcium, iron, iodine, potassium and phosphorous). Some of them also provide a high protein value, which is why they tend to appear frequently in vegetarian dishes.
Although the large supermarket chains have some kind of seaweed among their food products, the stores where there is usually a great variety are herbalists, or anyone who is specifically dedicated to satisfying the nutritional needs of vegan people.
Regarding the way they are sold, the algae can come in powder, dehydrated, canned or fresh, and the price varies considerably from one case to another.
The way of using each one is also different. For example, before using the algae that are sold fresh, we must make sure to remove all the salt; for this you have to immerse them in water and stir, a procedure that we must repeat three times. Having completed this step, we can proceed to cook them in boiling water (note that the time required for each species is different). Finally, we must drain them and add them to the preparation; It is important to note that water can be reused.
On the other hand, there are dehydrated algae, which are usually sold in small pieces, easy to add to soups and stews. It is enough to throw them with enough time to hydrate them, since they do not require any special treatment. If we want to use them to complement other dishes, but not cook them together with the other ingredients, then we can leave them for a long time in cold water.
The algae can also be used for the production of biofuels, fertilizers and cosmetic products. At the industrial level, they are included in different processes.