Blue-green algae more than 3.5 billion years old…
Spirulina is a type of cyanobacteria, or blue-green microalgae, that appeared on Earth 3.5 billion years ago, particularly recognizable for its 0.2-0.5mm long spiral shape.
These single-celled organisms, capable of photosynthesis, lie at the root of the development of all terrestrial plants, and also led to the emergence of aerobic living beings (i.e., those that need oxygen to live) – because it was their existence, and in particular their use of photosynthesis, that made it possible to transform an unbreathable atmosphere into a viable environment for oxygen-breathing organisms.
It is estimated that 90% of the oxygen currently on Earth (approximately 330 billion tons) comes from algae.
Found on all continents besides Antarctica, blue-green microalgae comprise 1,500 different species, of which 36 are edible. Traces of spirulina in its natural state can be found in locations between 35° N and 35° S, as long as certain conditions are met (particularly water that is warm, alkaline, and very rich in mineral salts). Spirulina can even be found in the Sinai Desert – where just a few drops of water are enough to “awaken” it. When dried, spirulina transforms into green particles that can be very well preserved.
Spirulina around the world…
Spirulina consumption dates back at least to the reign of the Aztec emperor Montezuma(1467-1520).The emperor was very fond of fish – and would send couriers to relay the 300km from his capital to the Gulf of Mexico just to be able to enjoy them fresh. These runners managed to cover long distances thanks to their natural EPO – dried spirulina! After being harvested as a sort of blue-green slime using very finely meshed nets, the spirulina was then dried in the form of patties and eaten together with cereal grains, seasoned with chilmolli (a sauce of tomato, pepper, and spices).
Unfortunately, the Mexican spirulina sources disappeared when the Spanish conquistadors dried up the lakes that supplied it, in order to create pastures and farmland for growing corn, tomatoes, and the like. Spirulina was soon forgotten in the region. Much later, in 1960, a French engineer took over a sodium hydroxide production facility in Mexico and had to deal with a blue slime getting into the machines – after initially burning it together with the trash, he was eventually able to identify it as spirulina.
On the shores of Lake Chad, spirulina forms a thick green mat that is harvested by the Kanembu tribe. The women of this tribe traditionally harvested spirulina using woven baskets, filtering it out directly onto the sand to dry in the sunlight. The Kanembu eat this daily in a sauce – and it represents the bulk of the tribe’s rations during periods of famine.
…and across the universe
In the future, spirulina may even form part of the diet of astronauts traveling to Mars. Thanks to its high concentration of macronutrients (including proteins), vitamins, and minerals, it would help ensure that their dietary needs are met. Spirulina is easily grown, enabling waste water to be recycled and oxygen to be produced (via its consumption of CO2) – making it ideal for such missions, where efficiency and weight load must be optimized.
Spirulina is a primordial food that is eaten around the earth – and probably soon beyond. Long before we discovered its components and how they work, people around the globe were already consuming spirulina.
Spirulina is an excellent nutritional supplement - complete and easy to digest Paul / Giromagny Team