Saturday, January 19, 2013

Adventures in Blue-Green Algae

This is what spirulina, aka cyanobacteria aka blue-green algae looks like.
Last Saturday night, I met up with Pierre-Andre at Le Bloc for a drink and a chat.

I'd never met Pierre-Andre before, but he'd sent a message via this very blog saying he's a spirulina farmer in the south of France, and if I was interested, we could meet up when he was coming through Paris the following week and I could give the greeny-blue stuff a try.

This was a first for me--both the spirulina bit as well as meeting a complete stranger for a drink. I had no trepidation whatsoever, and it turned out my instincts were sound. Pierre-Andre was a lovely person, funny and interesting, as well as frank and forthcoming about spirulina's potential benefits. ("It's not a miracle product!")

We spoke for nearly two hours--in French (another first!)--about life in the south and how it compares to Paris (sunnier!), vegetarianism and veganism, and then, of spirulina and how exactly it might benefit someone like me. I learned that it's particularly dense in some vitamins and minerals--vitamin K, magnesium--and that it really isn't a solid source of vitamin B (though it does have a component that mimics the effects of B12 in the body).

Pierre-Andre was kind enough to give me a good-size bag full of the stuff. 
A slightly more intimate glimpse of the spirulina.
We spoke some more about how the cyanobacteria is cultivated (in pools of lightly salinated freshwater), and then, how you go about ingesting it. Digging into one of his sacks, he pulled out a little brown bag and tipped a teaspoon or so into my hand. It was a puddle of dry, thin rivulets, like angel-hair pasta, broken up into minuscule bits. I took a pinch and popped it in my mouth, and was surprised that it tasted like mushrooms.

"Ah, bon?"

Apparently I was the first person to suggest the similarity in taste.

Whiskey in a jar? No, but the taste is equally potent, without the deleterious effects (nor the feel-good variety).
Before going our separate ways, Pierre-Andre gave me a full package of the stuff to try. What a fun surprise! I told him I'd do a little experiment: Each day, I'd take the recommended dosage--a teaspoon--and down it in a glass of water and note any effects, positive or negative. Today is Jour Six, and so far, nothing new to report. No real suppression of appetite or mental/physical energy boost--two of the potential effects. Neither has it made me feel particularly more "healthy." But I'm not done yet.

I figure there's about a month's-worth of spirulina in the bag, and I'm seeing it through to the end. If I sprout horns or develop a sudden affinity for trigonometry, I'll report back here.


  1. I was fascinated that you spoke for two hours in French, met a man for a drink, and had some thing that looks like cooked spinach ..:-)

    What does this Algae actually do ?


    1. Hi, Anne! People take spirulina as a nutritional supplement, sort of like a vitamin. It's meant to enhance your health. I need a little more time to decide if it's doing what it's supposed to!

  2. When I traveled through Europe with Lisa in 1985, she had a big container of spirulina that we drank every morning with orange juice. Sometimes that was it for breakfast. I have a great picture of Lisa mixing it with OJ in our hotel room in Nice, using a tooth brush handle. I'll have to find that photo....
    I love spirulina, it tastes wonderful.

    1. I didn't know spirulina was a "thing" in the 80s! Beth, you're always two steps ahead of the trends. Did you know that you're the person who first introduced me to the term "vegan"?!


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