When Hippocrates said “Let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food”, he was surely talking about spirulina, the dried blue-green algae Athrospira platensis. This ancient species that was here at the beginning of time long before our ancestors crawled out of the primordial slime, is truly the Rockstar of superfoods. In a marketplace bursting to the seams with lotions, potions and exotic foods claiming to be the panacea for every illness and ailment, spirulina stands head and shoulders above the rest.

In this article you will find out what is so awesome about spirulina and how you can grow it yourself for a fraction of what it costs to buy in store dietary supplements.

So what is so impressive about spirulina as a food?

With more than 100 essential nutrients, spirulina has one of the highest concentrations of vitamins, minerals and bioactive compounds in the world including: biotin, calcium, iron magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, selenium, vitamin A complex, B complex, D, E, niacin and pantothenic acid and a number of highly potent phytopigments.

Spirulina is particularly dense with these nutrients. For example, it has:

  • 3900% more betacarotene than carrots
  • 2300% more iron than spinach
  • 300% more calcium than whole milk
  • 375% more protein than tofu and 200 % more than meat

Further, 60 to 70 per cent by weight, is made up of protein with a full suite of essential amino acids in the same balance as human breast milk.

What is more, spirulina has a truly impressive range of health benefits. These are not hollow claims. There are over over 600 peer reviewed scientific studies demonstrating a variety of health benefits. For example, spirulina was shown to:

  • have powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity: just three grams of spirulina contains more antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity than five servings of vegetables
  • boost immune function
  • decrease strokes
  • aid control of blood pressure
  • have anti-cancer properties
  • reverse anaemia
  • reduce cholesterol
  • have a positive impact on vascular activity and high blood pressure
  • reduce allergic responses
  • assist in the treatment of diabetes and blood sugar metabolism
  • improve muscle strength and endurance
  • protect the brain from degenerative diseases
  • protect against free radicals and associated anti-aging effects
  • detoxify the body of heavy metals
  • reverse radiation poisoning

Spirulina is the food of the future

The United Nations asserts that spirulina is “the most ideal food for mankind”. The United States Department of Agriculture has declared that “spirulina is a food for the future”.

And the international Food and Agricultural Organization has called upon nations to look to spirulina to fulfil their food security needs.

But is it any good to eat?

It is true, dried spirulina doesn’t taste so good. It is a bit like making a smoothie with a sardine. But fresh, raw, live spirulina is another matter. It has a smooth creamy texture with a very mild taste that gives a very subtle hint of its marine origins. It is so mild that it is virtually tasteless and can be added to just about any food or drink.

You can add it to your smoothie or a fruit juice, put a dollop in a pasta sauce, add it to your pesto, give your mayonnaise a healthy boost, or put a big spoonful on top of your morning muesli. The cooking potential with fresh spirulina is limited only by your imagination.

An incredibly efficient organism

The fantastic thing about spirulina is that compared to producing other forms of food, it demands far fewer resources. For example, while it takes 2100 litres of water to produce one kilogram of protein from spirulina at a commercial scale, it takes 100,000 litres to grow one kilogram of beef protein. This is why spirulina is perfect for urban farmers. You can’t grow a cow, an almond tree, enough wheat to make a loaf of bread, or enough chickpeas to make hummus on your windowsill, but you can grow enough spirulina to supplement your diet.

Spirulina is super easy to grow

Spirulina is easy to grow and won’t take a big chunk of your time. It is easier than maintaining a fish tank. Here are the six basic steps to start doing it yourself:

  1. Obtain a live viable spirulina culture to seed your micro farm.
  2. Position the farm so it receives an appropriate amount of sunlight.
  3. Bubble air through it using an aquarium pump.
  4. Feed your growing culture with a mix of appropriate nutrients.
  5. Build the volume of the culture to harvest levels.
  6. Harvest and feed on a weekly basis.

It is as simple as that.

Here to spread the culture in Freo

A collaboration between acclaimed agricultural scientist Dr Ken Street, known for his award-winning documentary The Seed Hunter, one of Perth’s leading business coaches, George Helou and Freo’s own Joff Crabtree has set out to promote the urban farming of Spirulina. The collaboration, operating under the name Spirulina Grow Co, distributes live cultures and information on how to grow your own. They have set up a demonstration bioreactor at the J-Shed and will be running workshops on how to grow and harvest your own fresh live Spirulina.

The Seed Hunter Documentary

 

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Ken Street

Ken is an agricultural scientist whose work focused on the collection and conservation of our agrobiodiversity.  Working from his base in Aleppo, Syria at the International Centre for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) he coordinated projects with moving parts in Russia, Syria, Australia and the countries of the Trans Caucuses and Central Asia. He is the founder of Spirulina Grow Co and a passionate foodie