In Brittany, Globe Export/Algues de Bretagne, based in Finistère, has seen its profits soar, with its products selling well not just in delicatessens and health shops, but also in supermarkets across France.
They are mostly on supermarket shelves in the form of prepared salads or pâté spread, but Leclerc has just introduced a new range from Algues de Bretagne in the form of 1kg or 80g tubs of fresh organic seaweed.
As a bonus, each tub comes with instructions on how to prepare your own meals.
There are different varieties on offer: Kombu Kelp, Thong weed (haricot de mer), Dulse, Sea Lettuce (laitue de mer), Nori and Wakamé (fougère de mer).
Research and development manager Antoine Ravenel says Brittany has the perfect conditions for seaweed.
“The mild climate and underlying favourable currents make us the envy of countries like Japan, where seafood is a recognised part of the diet.
“In the past two to three years we have seen consumers becoming more and more interested in our products and we believe it is the new food of the future.”
The company has 25 employees, who treat the seaweed that is delivered to them by the goémoniers or seaweed gatherers. They collect it by hand at low tide when they are about a metre underwater.
Some goémoniers also go out to sea and use what they call a scoubidou, which is a screw device that goes into the water and twists and pulls up the weed.
The harvest is regulated to protect the natural sources, which although plentiful at present, need to be managed as popularity increases.
Algues de Bretagne gives consumers advice about the nutritional properties of the seaweeds it is now selling fresh, and says:
Thong weed has 10 times more vitamin C than kiwi fruit, is rich in magnesium and is said to pamper your heart by absorbing “bad cholesterol”.
Dulse is as rich in proteins as eggs and contains 20 times more calcium than milk and 20 times more magnesium than chocolate.
Wakamé has the record for containing B12 among the seaweed family, Nori is known for staving off old-age by fighting anaemia and hair loss and is even claimed to slow down the rate at which hair turns white.
Finally, bright green sea lettuce is another champion of vitamin C, with levels much higher than either kiwi fruit or oranges.
The company also has recipe suggestions, as seaweeds can be used in soups, as a kind of topping on toast, in salads, as a spaghetti sauce or in a sea- flavoured guacamole.
Creamy Thong Weed:
Remove salt from thong weed by soaking it in water then blanching in boiling water until it turns green (20 to 30 sec). Let it cool.
Finely chop 2 shallots and 1 garlic clove and fry with a bit of butter.
Pour 1 glass of white wine and 1 of thick cream into pan; let it warm gently with salt, pepper and chopped tarragon.
Take off heat, add 1 egg yolk and stir to get a nice, yellow sauce. Add the thong weed into the sauce to warm up.
It can be served with tofu.
Tri-colour spaghetti sauce:
Soak 40g sea lettuce to desalt it, then drain and finely chop.
Fry for 5 minutes with 300g of fine sliced leek and carrot.
Add a red pepper cut into thin strips, and brown. Add salt and pepper and 5cl of cream.
Serve directly onto spaghetti.