The grain comes from an aquatic seagrass called Zostera marina
Spotted: Seagrass is described as an “incredible tool” to fight climate change by the WWF. The plant accounts for up to 18 per cent of the ocean’s carbon storage annually, despite covering less than 0.1 per cent of the seabed. And as well as helping with carbon emissions, one Spanish chef, Ángel León, has found a way to cultivate the plant for food production.
Having recognised seagrass’ potential as a food source, the research lab of Aponiente, León’s restaurant, began a study in 2017. This study successfully pioneered the cultivation of a type of seagrass called Zostera marina and its seed – marine grain – under controlled conditions, in a 3,000 square metre area in the Bahía de Cádiz Natural Park.
Although there are meadows full of the wild species across Europe, the plant is still dying at a concerning rate, and mass reforestation of Zostera marina has proven difficult. But, Aponiete’s project is allowing for the creation of a seedbank, which will make it much easier to repopulate coastal wetlands with the seagrass. And because Zostera marina and marine grains do not require fertilisers, chemicals, or additional nutrients beyond seawater, they are extremely sustainable crops.
The project also demonstrated that the plant is suitable for human consumption. In fact, Zostera marina is considered a superfood. In the lab, Aponiente found that marine grain contains a greater amount of macro and micronutrients compared to land-based grains like rice and barley, including high-quality proteins and carbohydrates. It also contains essential fatty acids, Omegas 6 and 9, amino acids not commonly found elsewhere, and vitamins A and E (which aren’t found in any other grain).
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Written By: Anam Alam