Portuguese vacationers in the Algarve are complaining about the amount of algae on the beaches. As it turns out, the algae - also called sea lettuces - are not only healthy, they are in fact… edible!
Algae - or sea lettuces, as some refer to them - have been showing up on the coast, filling the beaches with a green mantle - but they pose no health risk, although they've been generating some discomfort among the bathers.
These algae abound at the bottom of the Ria Formosa, feeding on nutrients from discharges of nitrate and ammonia-rich urban and agricultural tributaries. "It is normal for them to appear on the beaches of the Eastern Algarve, but this summer it was in greater quantity, due to the outcrop of the deepest waters of the ria that surface and are dragged offshore, eventually becoming deposited on the beaches when the tide rises," explains Rui Santos, researcher at the Center for Marine Sciences (CCMar) of the University of Algarve, quoted by the Expresso newspaper.
The expert explains that the number of algae on the beaches, higher than normal this year, was due to the strong north and northwest winds that cooled the waters of the Algarve coast in the first half of August 2019.
Faced with bathers' complaints, the Vila Real de Santo António City Council ordered some beaches to be cleaned, however, recalls Rui Vasconcelos de Andrade, “any cleaning being done is of short duration”, as the tide keeps sending lettuces from the sea to the beach.
Ulva linnaeus have a natural distribution along the shores of all oceans and are even edible both raw (in salads or sushi) or cooked.
They should be caught in open water on coastal beaches so as to avoid pollutants or toxins as much as possible. To maintain chlorophyll, algae should be dried in the shade. There are also companies that already sell dehydrated and ready to eat algae. Sea lettuces are rich in protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals.
Check out this cool recipe for sea lettuce with pineapple: