This Spirulina Is Straight From the Farm and Ready for Your Smoothies
By Jeff Spurrier
It's been a cold and rainy fall in San Miguel de Allende in central Mexico. Ten miles out of town, in the mesquite-covered campo next to the Rio Laja, Francisco Portillo and Katie Kohlstedt, the owners of Spirulina Viva, are keeping a close eye on their crop. Spirulina doesn't like the cold, said Portillo, or excessive heat, too much sunlight or if the pH is too high or too low. It's a wild algae that has been around for more than 3.5 billion years and learned what it likes.
If the power goes out on the agitating paddle wheels, they have to grab some brooms to keep the flow moving, oxygenating with each stroke. They collect two kilos from each tank in the fall, and double that in the summer. They harvest in the morning, which is when the phytonutrient C-phycocyanin—which gives spirulina its superfood reputation—is most concentrated.
The pair met in Baja California Sur more than a decade ago and had planned to volunteer through World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF) on their way south to Patagonia. They worked on 13 different farms, from cacao to shiitake, eating spirulina the entire way. "We never got sick and never felt weak," remembered Kohlstedt, "and we were eating crappy because it's hard to feed yourself well when you travel."
In Brazil, they shared a cab with an "algaepreneur" from France, where artisanal spirulina is particularly popular. He invited them to pitch their tent on his farm and check out his single pond operation. They jumped at the chance ("I will be your slave!" enthused Kohlstedt). Inspired by what they saw and with Kohlstedt pregnant with their first son, Kai, the couple returned to Portillo's home in San Luis Potosí, Mexico. In 2010, they set up Spirulina Viva in the countryside outside the resort town of San Miguel de Allende, taking out loans, building a home, sinking a well and constructing two greenhouses to house four 42-meter-long "raceway" tanks.
They started with half a liter of blue-green Arthrospira maxima, the same variety that the Aztecs harvested from Lake Texcoco. A year later, it was producing 1,000 liters a month. After they skim it off the surface, the living algae gets strained and goes directly into the freezer, where it remains dormant but doesn't die. "It's actually still living," said Portillo. "You can unfreeze it and put it in a culture medium and it will grow again."
They sell their product locally, to trendy restaurants and juice bars in San Miguel de Allende, and across the country. For a while, they conducted workshops to teach people how to grow spirulina at home, but that proved to be more trouble than it was worth. Nobody could keep their home algae alive, and they called day and night for advice.
"This is enough work," said Kohlstedt. "Many people want to live in the countryside, grow stuff and live the dream, but then growing tomatoes is hard and they are cheap. We thought this would be easier."
Under the microscope in the farm's office, their crop becomes clearly visible: left-branching filaments, shaped like coiled springs, and none larger than five centimeters. They sell mostly fresh-frozen squares, not dried—even though the shelf life is much longer. A friend in Oaxaca makes pasta from it, but Kohlstedt thinks that's a distraction from eating fresh, which is how you reap most of the benefits.
People may buy spirulina with good intentions, but they often don't use it because it tastes bad and has an intense and noticeable taste. "It sits in the pantry unused because it ruins smoothies," she said. "With fresh spirulina, smoothies are creamier." Fresh spirulina is also almost flavorless. It blends seamlessly into sauces, guacamole, stews and baked goods, but its deep green color is impossible to hide. "People get hung up on the color," said Kohlstedt with an exasperated grin. "What color do you want your food to be?"
Reposted with permission from our media associate Modern Farmer.
- Redwoods are the world's tallest trees.
- Now scientists have discovered they are even bigger than we thought.
- Using laser technology they map the 80-meter giants.
- Trees are a key plank in the fight against climate change.
They are among the largest trees in the world, descendants of forests where dinosaurs roamed.
Pixabay / Simi Luft<p><span>Until recently, measuring these trees meant scaling their 80 meter high trunks with a tape measure. Now, a team of scientists from University College London and the University of Maryland uses advanced laser scanning, to create 3D maps and calculate the total mass.</span></p><p>The results are striking: suggesting the trees <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-73733-6" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">may be as much as 30% larger than earlier measurements suggested.</a> Part of that could be due to the additional trunks the Redwoods can grow as they age, <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-73733-6" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">a process known as reiteration</a>.</p>
New 3D measurements of large redwood trees for biomass and structure. Nature / UCL<p>Measuring the trees more accurately is important because carbon capture will probably play a key role in the battle against climate change. Forest <a href="https://www.wri.org/blog/2020/09/carbon-sequestration-natural-forest-regrowth" target="_blank">growth could absorb billions of tons</a> of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere each year.</p><p>"The importance of big trees is widely-recognised in terms of carbon storage, demographics and impact on their surrounding ecosystems," the authors wrote<a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-73733-6" target="_blank"> in the journal Nature</a>. "Unfortunately the importance of big trees is in direct proportion to the difficulty of measuring them."</p><p>Redwoods are so long lived because of their ability to <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-73733-6" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">cope with climate change, resist disease and even survive fire damage</a>, the scientists say. Almost a fifth of their volume may be bark, which helps protect them.</p>
Carbon Capture Champions<p><span>Earlier research by scientists at Humboldt University and the University of Washington found that </span><a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0378112716302584" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Redwood forests store almost 2,600 tonnes of carbon per hectare</a><span>, their bark alone containing more carbon than any other neighboring species.</span></p><p>While the importance of trees in fighting climate change is widely accepted, not all species enjoy the same protection as California's coastal Redwoods. In 2019 the world lost the equivalent of <a href="https://www.worldwildlife.org/threats/deforestation-and-forest-degradation" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">30 soccer fields of forest cover every minute</a>, due to agricultural expansion, logging and fires, according to The Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF).</p>
Pixabay<p>Although <a href="https://c402277.ssl.cf1.rackcdn.com/publications/1420/files/original/Deforestation_fronts_-_drivers_and_responses_in_a_changing_world_-_full_report_%281%29.pdf?1610810475" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">the rate of loss is reported to have slowed in recent years</a>, reforesting the world to help stem climate change is a massive task.</p><p><span>That's why the World Economic Forum launched the Trillion Trees Challenge (</span><a href="https://www.1t.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">1t.org</a><span>) and is engaging organizations and individuals across the globe through its </span><a href="https://uplink.weforum.org/uplink/s/uplink-issue/a002o00000vOf09AAC/trillion-trees" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Uplink innovation crowdsourcing platform</a><span> to support the project.</span></p><p>That's backed up by research led by ETH Zurich/Crowther Lab showing there's potential to restore tree coverage across 2.2 billion acres of degraded land.</p><p>"Forests are critical to the health of the planet," according to <a href="https://www.1t.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">1t.org</a>. "They sequester carbon, regulate global temperatures and freshwater flows, recharge groundwater, anchor fertile soil and act as flood barriers."</p><p><em data-redactor-tag="em" data-verified="redactor">Reposted with permission from the </em><span><em data-redactor-tag="em" data-verified="redactor"><a href="https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2021/03/redwoods-store-more-co2-and-are-more-enormous-than-we-thought/" target="_blank">World Economic Forum</a>.</em></span></p>
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