From 'food for crustaceans' drifting in ocean currents, to Michelin-starred chefs' kitchens and haute cuisine.
We're describing the upwardly mobile journey of plankton, the natural marine ingredient predicted to trend in the food world this year: “As we see the trend in health–conscious food growing, this will be an interesting ingredient to look out for on restaurants menus across the country,” explains Chef Sergio Sanz Blanco from Ametsa, formerly of Arzak, in the Press and Journal.
This, along with news that plankton is now available to purchase, making it more accessible to chefs and home cooks than ever before. This could all mean a huge 2017 for an organism of microscopic proportions.
Let's take a closer look at what plankton is and how we can cook with plankton in the kitchen.
What is Marine Plankton?
Plankton plays a vital role in our marine ecosystem. Known as microalgae, they produce 50% of our oxygen and are a valuable source of food for fish and shellfish.
No longer only found in the ocean, Fitoplankton Marino S.L is the Spanish producer that has managed to re-create the ideal conditions for cultivating microalgae within their aquaculture company located in Puerto de Santa Maria near the Spanish city of Cadiz. It is the first, and so far only, company growing and licensed to produce plankton for human consumption.
Why Should we Eat Plankton?
Plankton is an entirely natural product rich in minerals like iron, calcium, phosphorus, iodine, magnesium, potassium, omega 3 and six fatty acids, and vitamins E and C, making it incredibly good for us.
Eaten as a supplement, phytoplankton is also thought to be a mood lifter and is recommended as an addition to depression diet treatment plans. It is important to consider the risks to the environment as we eat further and further down the food chain, however, and most edible plankton is cultured in labs rather than being foraged or harvested in the wild.
But how does it taste? ... Needless to say, salty like the sea. Bright green in colour, it will also ramp up the visual appeal of your dish a few notches.
Michelin-starred chef Angel Leon reports in the Metro: "It’s velvety and dry before mixing with liquid. Silky once mixed, oily and elegant, pungent on the nose yet subtle and leaves a long finish in the mouth. Other ingredients that match it include sushi, aromatic white wines and late harvest wines."
How to Cook with Plankton
Longino & Cardenal are the distribution company at the coal face of plankton marketing. Their development process of edible plankton and culinary exploration included many chefs, most notably the 'chef of the sea' Ángel León. The Spanish chef who also famously served a 21-course tasting menu starring plankton back in 2013.
Plankton powder simply needs a little water to re-hydrate it, then it's ready for use in many recipes: from mayonnaise to adding flavour to marinades and sous vide cooking to enriching a salty ice cream.
Here's a special recipe from chef Angel Leon for squid risotto with marine plankton, where the plankton proteins make the dish even creamier, as well as adding extra depth of flavour.
USA chef Dan Barber has also experimented, creating plankton bread.