Don’t miss an opportunity to taste these seaside wild plants below if you are on holiday!
I found lots of SEA BUCKTHORN bushes (Hippophae rhamnoides) when I hopped behind the sand dunes on Sand Bay dog beach in Weston-super -Mare. Myself and my 6 year old son lost no time cramming the wickedly tangy, sherberty orange berries into our mouths; my mum, however, pronounced them ‘not flavoursome enough!’. My advice is to watch out for the vicious thorns however. Sea buckthorn contains Vitamin C, A,B1, B2, B6, and Omega 7. The berry oil is used in herbal medicines to boost immunity, obesity, blood pressure and cholesterol, but there’s not much scientific evidence for any of this. Try juicing it into a smoothie with other blander fruits such as melon, or pureeing it as a sauce with game. Or freeze into an ice lolly for kids to pick at!
I first came across SEA KALE (Crambe maritima) on the shingle beach at Littlehampton, West Sussex. I worked out it was part of the cabbage (Brassica) family quite easily – the rubbery, turquoise cabbagy leaves and four petalled white flowers are a giveaway. The texture is what makes it delicious – crunchy and slightly salty and bitter. The young shoots are purple and together with the flower buds are the tenderness and tastiest part. Saute them as you would asparagus, or stir fry withsoy sauce…just don’t cook for too long, nobody likes sloppy cabbage!
If your trip takes you near estuary mud or marshland,look out for the unmistakable transparent emerald minature cactus lookalike that is GLASSWORT/SEA SAMPHIRE (Salicornia europaea). I have found it in Cornwall and in Norfolk,where it is harvested commercially. The succulent, salty, crunchy stems are found in posh restaurants (and in Waitrose!) when it is the right season. It goes best partnered with fish. The price for just a handful is enough to make you weep. I do like the texture,but am baffled as to why there is such a racket as mostly all I could taste was salt. This is another reason to cook this plant with plenty of water and no extra salt! Add a drop of butter or olive oil once cooked.
I discovered ROCK SAMPHIRE (Crithmum maritimum) on the cliffs of the Jurassic Coast in Lyme Regis. This proud member of the Carrot (Apiceae) family has the umbrella-like blooms and finely divided leaves, though as it is a coastal plant the leaf fronds have narrowed into turquoise needles. It tastes of a powerful mix of toothpaste, (aniseed and fennel) and carrot. This taste and scent comes from the powerful oils it contains. Sailors used to eat this plant to prevent scurvy and it used to be more popular than the now trendy sea samphire (not related!) however it’s an acquired taste for some people. Best lacto fermented or pickled, or steamed and stir fried.
So next time you head to the beach, grab a bag or basket and get close and personal with nature’s larder. Just remember to only take what you need, when there is enough.