SUPERFOOD The Chef del Mar manages to cultivate a marine plant whose grains are similar to 'terrestrial' cereals and with greater nutritional properties
SUSTAINABLE: It is the seagrass, an endangered plant that grows under the sea and does not need pesticides, fertilizers, or additional nutrients
THE PROJECT: It has had the collaboration of the University of Cádiz and other scientific groups
R&D The chef from Aponiente intends to create the first center in the world specialized in marine vegetable crops
Ángel León is known as the
Chef of the Sea
, although the name is on the way to falling short.
And it is that, just as the marine explorers of yesteryear came up with formidable discoveries, the Andalusian chef has discovered
, a product that in the future could
revolutionize human nutrition
and which adorns all kinds of positive attributes: superfood,
, key in the fight against climate change ...
But let's go in parts.
This finding is not the result of improvisation.
From the Gastronomic Research Laboratory of Aponiente, led by Ángel León and with Juan Martín as a biologist, they have been
studying the great marine pantry for
more than a decade
(there are among others, the gastronomic applications of phytoplankton, the
of discarded fish into jewels culinary ...).
"Gastronomy is a fantastic tool to tell the world about the benefits of the sea, of the land, the need to support artisanal fishermen, responsible farmers ... Teach people to buy well and eat healthy and responsibly. In short, not to stick to what the
. For this, we have been developing national and international projects for many years, and, as a result of the union of cuisine and science, we make gastronomy a
for biodiversity ", explains León.
The marine cereal discovered by Ángel León and his team from Aponiente.
The Seri Indians
For more than three years, one of these research programs has been the protagonist of the
that is in danger of extinction and from which León has obtained this marine cereal.
But how did the chef from Aponiente come to him?
"I have always thought that all food that comes from the landmass has its origin in the sea, a '
marine twin brother
', from where life was born on Earth. Since I started cooking, I have looked for the marine counterpart to those foods that we know well, and that's where the search for this cereal arises, "he says.
In this case, the clue was in an article on the seagrass that, in 1973, was published in the
and that spoke of how the community of Seri Indians, in Sonora, Mexico (Gulf of California) collected grains that the marine banquettes returned each spring.
"That article awoke the
need to know everything
. I contacted experts from the University of Cádiz (doctors Fernando Brun and Lucas Pérez Llòrens), we created a
in Aponiente and hired the group of Ecology, Structure and Dynamics of Aquatic Ecosystems of the University of Cádiz, in a project financed entirely by Aponiente and in collaboration with Pesquerías Lubimar, of the Hernández Alonso family, "adds the chef.
The longitudinally open plan.
And what that zostera?
Well, it is not an alga, but one of the four seagrasses that exist in Europe, belonging to a group of plants that scientists and biologists consider superior,
with seeds, flowers, rhizomes
..., which are born under the sea and they
on its water.
This is a key fact, because it would allow its cultivation in areas that only had
It is also an
ecological and sustainable
- it does not need pesticides, fertilizers or additional nutrients, only seawater - and even
, since being perennial, it does not have to be replanted, they argue from Aponiente (restaurant with three stars Michelin and Michelin green star for sustainability).
The pioneering project has made it possible to cultivate this aquatic grass for the first time in a controlled environment - 3,000 square meters in the Bahía de Cádiz Natural Park, where Aponiente is located - and to determine if it is viable for
And it turns out that it is not only viable, but its grain has the
category of superfood
Thus, it has been subjected to analysis and comparative studies with other cereals and is
: it has a greater quantity of high-quality proteins;
high concentrations of vitamins of group B;
vitamins A and E;
fatty acids such as
omega 3 and 6
, which are lacking in common cereals;
less than 2% fat ...
"It is a
grain much denser
than other cereals, more nutritious and much more complex, perhaps similar to
legumes due to its texture
, density and greater body, as well as its organoleptic characteristics", explains the chef from Cádiz.
A grain that takes advantage of everything.
"It is edible whole, both with the
that covers it, similar to a whole grain, as without it, and even polished like the most avant-garde rice dishes that we are lucky enough to enjoy in Spain. It presents very varied culinary uses, in which we will work, "he anticipates.
Marine cereal grains.
The question is a must.
What does marine cereal taste like?
"It opens the door to another texture and flavor, dense and firm,
crunchy like al dente pasta
, aromatic, vegetable and iodized, thanks to its slightly saline touch. In the mouth it surprises to the point of believing that we are eating more than one product, because it
reminds of quinoa
, but with much more
, and also slightly of the sea, although it is a
thousand times more subtle
than the taste of fish or shellfish ", describes the captain of Aponiente, a flagship located in an old tidal mill of the century XIX, in El Puerto de Santa María.
However, they have not been able to do all the gastronomic tests that they would have liked.
is the scarcity of grain in the environment and our priority, since we started the project, is to
use each grain in sowing it
to multiply the cultivated area in the marsh."
"Obviously - he points out - we have done tests with several hundred grams at different times, techniques and preparations, and I can assure you that it
does not leave indifferent
the most demanding palates. Even so, we have only cooked it, to later sauté it and make it to the way of rice and risottos. Everything remains to be discovered, because the cooking options are enormous ".
will take time to try it
in its restaurants, since the main objective "is to advance in its cultivation, to have a
stock of seeds
that allows us to cultivate much more marine surface than we currently have and to help in the
repopulation of coastal areas
where this plant is disappearing, since it is a key species for the health of our seas and our life on this beautiful planet. "
Zostera marina cultivated in the salt flats of the Bay of Cádiz.
-Superfood, sustainable, cultivable in salt water, with no fertilizer other than the sea ... It seems to have been born to mitigate many needs in a large number of countries.
-I think so.
But not only to offer a
in less developed countries that do not have fresh water, but also to
recover our own
, many of which are currently unused and harbor extraordinary conditions to be recovered through the cultivation of the seagrass.
-Is the sea the great pantry to discover?
And we do not say it.
According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), we know about 1.5 million species, but our planet is believed to be home to 8.7 million.
In other words,
86% of the species
on Earth have not yet
, and a very high percentage of them are in the sea.
We have to work with determination to prevent the
planet's pantry from
being its biggest
at the same time
That is the challenge.
The challenge for everyone, although the most immediate for Chef del Mar is to create the world's
first specialized center
for R&D in marine vegetable crops with several objectives behind it: to obtain keys to mitigate the effects of climate change, restore aquatic ecosystems, encourage the future development of "commonly terrestrial crops in the sea" ... There is nothing.
With the marine cereal already here, it seems that the
with which Ángel León has always dreamed of
is a little less far
Meanwhile, keep exploring the sea ...
More information about the project on the website cerealmarino.com
The Andalusian chef, next to his restaurant.Photo by Álvaro Fernández Prieto provided by Aponiente.
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