Coastal Foraging: Salt of the Earth

Coastal Foraging: Salt of the Earth

Coastal Foraging, a flavoursome collection of saltiness

Coastal foraging offers a wide range of edible plants, depending on the season. If you live away from the coast, but get to make a trip, look at a map beforehand and aim to go off the main tourist beaches.

Let us have a wander down by the creek, along the salt marsh, and beside the edge of the sea. The provisions for the day’s meal will be taken care of, our heart will be gladdened, and the lungs filled with fine salty fresh air.

Today — as we touch on the salty — I attempted to write this article sitting on a rug under a big old oak away from the hustle and noise of my neighbourhood but I failed. The sun was warm and pleasant, the birds where singing and everything was fine with the world — I felt far too relaxed. I had no edge, things were too sweet.

So, did I need a touch of salt to tease out flavoursome words? Well I think yes, such is life, it has always been so. A touch of salt gives a boost to an otherwise bland offering. Too much and it poisons or hardens — just a little if we have raw wounds can be painful. But if we are healthy we will find it adds spice: the yin to the yang. I am verging on salt being Yin but happy for that to be disputed.

Coastal Foraging - A wild relationship

Roses and sea beet , wild companions.

My cycle ride to a salty margin, took me back to a childhood creek, where the family once moored a small boat, and nothing had changed, wonderful, no fancy yachts, just the low key tranquility of a few local craft, bobbing about on the water. A boy and girl aged about 8 or 9 on their bicycles excitedly told me they had found a pencil, and I was thrown back in time, to my long-suffering brother and I on that very same quay. Me, always wanting an adventure and he nagged to tag along.

I locked up the bike and walked along the edges of the creek, and the first sight to hit my eyes, was the vivid bright yellow flowers of black mustard, behind that was a flowering elder in all her bridal glory, complete with wild roses intertwined, throughout her lacy attire.

Coastal Foraging - A wild relationship

Haze of mustard flowers

To the base of the trees, was an abundance of sea beet, its emerald green, iron rich leaves, making me feel healthy just looking at them, and a good handful, went into my bag.

But my gaze was being drawn to the marsh mud, and to one I recognised instantly, spear leafed orache, it was flourishing, big time, so I pick a small bunch, which can be lightly steamed and used as a green side vegetable.

But there was something else, and at first I thought of marsh Samphire, the succulent, gourmet, green vegetable, beloved of fancy, high end cuisine. No this little fellow, still young and with a seasons growing ahead, is barely mentioned in any books, It is sea blite or sea blight, more tender and delicate than its popular look alike, but I would give it a close second prize. It is tidal, along this stretch and the lack of commercial activity, or even people, gave me a good indication, that the waters were okay, and I could safely, pick a small handful for my supper.

Coastal Foraging - A wild relationship

Young spear leaf orache and sea blight.

I carry with me a pair of scissors, and just snip here and there, never take a plant, no need, it is destructive, and although a large abundant patch it had much maturing to do. I would be back,  my heart was joyful with thanks, this little piece of rarely visited, river edge was alive with diversity and generosity.

I also gathered a small amount of rock samphire, just snipping, young tips, from a plant growing on rocks, but under the shade of a brush, which, rendered the shoots, less strongly flavoured. Samphire has a pungent parsley/carrot/celery flavour and can be very strong, one of the downfalls of rock samphire, just the young tips are pleasant. Strictly speaking, it is still illegal to gather, rendered to the brink of extinction, during Victorian times, it has recovered with abundance, but remains on the do not pick list. Again, never pick the plant, just snip a few leaves and like all wild plants eat quickly, while it still retains its life force.

Coastal Foraging - A wild relationship

Rock Samphire

Fennel is a coastline staple also, and a few of its feather-like leaves adds an aniseed-like garnish to dishes, while its seeds, and can be gathered, for a variety of uses.

The biggest harvest though is of the eye and the senses, the beauty of nature, and I am sure, if you have read this far, your eyes and heart are already receptive to the miracle all around us, partake often and drink in good measure her elixir for good health.

Coastal Foraging - A wild relationship

Fennel behind the mustard flowers

Now, recipes are not my strong point, as I only have my own palette to please, so although occasionally I make a big effort, for the sake of this blog, I will offer hints for you to make that journey with your wild finds, which I am sure, you can do with more expertise than me.

In a previous blog, I gave a recipe for old fashioned nettle pudding, here is an update. I wrapped the pudding in blanched sea beet leaves before steaming, and the result was very good, seen in the photo below and served with spear leaf orache from my forage.

A favourite, I am experimenting with at the moment is Japanese inspired food, and the salt loving plants we discuss today, are ideal ingredients.

My plate below, contained wild sea salad, onigiri rice balls, super simple, give them a Google. Crispy fried sea lettuce (sea weeds need a blog of their own) wash well and then dry, in the sun or a slow oven, when dry, fry in hot oil for 10-15 seconds, add pepper or sesame seeds, delicious.

Japanese style salad- chopped sea blight, rock samphire, fennel and strips of preserved ginger in syrup, with a sauce made of oil, Ume plum seasoning, Tamari soya sauce, lemon juice and chilli flakes. Good organic nearly free food.

Japanese style supper.

We have only touched the surface agian today; please visit nature and this blog again, for further sharing of mother Earths generous provisions, love her as she loves us, treat here well and thank you for spending a few moments here with my wanderings.

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For more hints and tips, come and like my Facebook page A Wild Relationship. I would love you to share your discoveries with me. ~ Paula

All content provided in this blog is for informational purposes only. I make no representations as to the accuracy or completeness of any information on this site, or found by following any link on this site. Independent and expert advice should be sourced by anyone wanting to proceed with foraging. Consuming wild plants is done so at your own risk, I take no responsibility. I am the legal copyright holder of all written and photographic material under the category ‘A Wild Relationship’ and the contents and photographs cannot be used to reprint or publish without my written consent.


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1 Comment

  1. Alex Brocklehurst
    June 16, 03:46 #1 Alex Brocklehurst

    Excellent! A stimulating read.

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