There are, to simplify a little, three kinds of algae: red, green, and brown. But among those types are an amazingly wide variety of shapes and sizes.
Did you know that a lot of the coral you see is covered in algae? And, in fact, that some of what you think is a coral formation is actually an algal formation? Yup, that’s right, it’s algae. It’s hard and calcified and looks like coral but it’s not.
Here’s another odd kind of algae: “sailors’ eyeballs,” which look and feel like huge green grapes, and when you squish them, the contents explode and you’re left with the skin. Awesomely gross! Then there are “sea grapes,” tiny little green caviar like balls which people eat, including yours truly. They’re a little salty, as I suspected, but they also have a distinct flavor which is hard to put into words. It’s not bad, honestly, maybe a little flowery or fruity? Anyway, I recommend you try some. Come on, you’ve eaten algae already. It’s in ice cream and other products. That’s what carrageenan is. It’s good stuff.
Damsel fish know that and protect their little algae gardens and will become quite aggressive if you try interfere with their gardening plans. And some algae has even been found to have the potential to fight HIV and AIDS. So, it’s food, it’s medicine, it’s fun.
I wish I had more time to write about algae, but my thanks (and apologies for being very unscientific) go to Tom, our island algae professional who shared his wonderful enthusiasm for algae with us to the point that I now want to write a book (actually, several) about algae. But first, I have to go eat some . . . in ice cream.