Agri Kultuur September / September 2016 - Page 64

Red seaweeds are rich in phycocolloids, which make them excellent for use as stabilising and gelling agents in a number of industries.      Together with microscopic algae called phytoplankton, seaweeds (also known as marine macroscopic algae or marine ‘sea vegetables’) are responsible for all primary production in the oceans and, therefore, form the base of the food chain in the oceans. Seaweeds are amongst the fastest growing organisms on the planet. For example, under optimal conditions, the giant kelp Macrocystis pyrifera, can grow nearly a meter (three foot) a day, attaining lengths in excess of 50 m. While most seaweeds are soft and fleshy, a large number of particularly red seaweeds are hard as rock. These hard red seaweeds, commonly known as coralline algae, deposit lime into their cell walls. Strictly speaking, not all seaweeds are plants. Only the green (ancestors to the land plants) and red seaweeds are currently considered plants. However, like plants, most microscopic algae and seaweeds depend on sunlight to produce food through photosynthesis. Many marine scientists are of the opinion that red seaweeds should not be treated as ‘plants’ but placed in a kingdom all on their own, sister to the plants. The reason for this suggestion is that they are the only group of organisms on the planet that pos- The red seaweeds account for more than half of all the currently known species of seaweeds. sess three life cycle stages.  Seaweeds assimilate minerals directly from the sea and are thought to be the single most nutritious foods that you can eat. Rich in trace elements and vitamins, many of them frequently contain more protein than meat and more calcium than milk.  The word seaweed is so commonly used, yet to refer to these marine macroscopic algae as ‘weeds’ is so very far from the truth. Although we often cannot smell or taste them, many ingredients in our foods and household products come from the sea and from seaweeds. Common uses of seaweeds Green seaweeds Eaten in the Far East as a green vegetable in salads and soups.  Are rich in carotenoids (an antioxidant, age -defying substances).  Are now known to help in preventing cancer (including breast cancer in woman), heart disease, and strokes.  Beta carotene derived from green seaweeds, is used as a yellow-orange food colorant in cheese, coffee creamers, egg substitute, margarine, mayonnaise, multivitamins and salad dressings.  Whole brown seaweeds and kelp