Search
  • Craig Williams

Foraging Wild Ingredients: Sea Vegetables

Marshlands are a wonderful place full of life, colour and tasty treats. In June, July and August, you can forage a range of sea vegetables that are naturally salted and unlike any vegetable you have ever tried! Top Tips: If you’re heading out to collect sea vegetables we advise you to always take a pair of scissors and always leave the roots in the ground so the plant can continue to grow. Also, check the tide (https://www.tide-forecast.com/) and aim to go when the tide is out (I’ve made this mistake too many times). While we’re on the topic of the tide, be cautious of foraging at any place where you can get cut off by the tide. It’s amazing how quickly the tide can rise when you’re focusing on foraging. Once you’ve collected the sea vegetables, give them a good wash in cold water when you get home and eat them on the same day for maximum flavour and nutrition.


Marsh Samphire

This baby has hit the supermarket shelves in recent years and is now the go-to “fancy” ingredient to add to any seafood dish. It’s delicious, but wait till you try it fresh, you will never want to buy it in a supermarket again. Also, this vegetable grows in abundance - my local spot has football fields of the stuff - so you can be sure it will be there year on year.


To find marsh samphire, your best bet is searching on a salt marsh (believe it or not). It grows in the intertidal zone - which is in between the low tide and the high tide mark and will be found in muddy, grassy and sandy areas. It is really easy to identify marsh samphire as its bobbly alien-looking stem looks like nothing else.


Habitat: Salt march, estuary, mudflats, coastal sand

Size: 3-30cm

Season: June - August




Sea Spray


Very similar to but slightly milder and sweeter than marsh samphire? If you’re already foraging marsh samphire, then you want to add sea spray to your next foraging adventure as it tends to grow next to marsh samphire. It is also known as sea rosemary, which is a great help in identifying it because it looks like rosemary in succulent form.


Habitat: Salt march, estuary, mudflats, coastal sand

Average plant size: 15cm

Average leaf size: 3cm

Season: June - August



Sea Purslane


A crunchy yet fleshy succulent that has a little more acidity than marsh samphire and sea spray - perfect for a seafood pairing. This grows around the high tide mark and is easy to find as it tends to grow in rather large bushes. Also, identifying it is pretty straightforward with its flat sage-looking oval leaves (there must be a technical term for that) and its woody stem. The stem can be eaten on the younger plants, but I tend to stick to the leaves.


Habitat: Salt march, estuary, mudflats, coastal sand

Average plant size: 15cm

Average leaf size: 4cm

Season: June - August



How To Cook


They can be eaten raw, but if you want to take a little of the saltiness away you can boil for 30 seconds or steam. They are also delicious fried in a nasty amount of butter. Remember not to salt it! They will quickly lose their texture when cooking and can take on a bitter taste, so quick or no cooking is key. They can also be pickled (not tried this yet) and I'm sure some sea vegetable fermentation could be interesting.



Food Pairings


All seafood - These three beauties are a match made in heaven to any seafood dish with their natural salty taste. All you need to add is a little lemon to balance the flavour.


Saltmarsh lamb - One of the Gower Peninsulas most prized products (it’s ridiculously good) and also a great pairing with sea vegetables. It’s a similar principle to stuffing your lamb with anchovies, that salty sea flavour actually accentuates the meatiness of the lamb. For a simple side, just lightly fry the sea vegetables in butter.


Eggs - Eggs and flavours of the sea are incredible. If you’ve ever had eggs with seaweed then you know what I’m talking about. It’s just divine. Why not try making a sea vegetable salsa verde type thing and spreading it on toast in the morning with a soft boiled egg on top? Another one that I imagine being incredible is a sea vegetable coated Scotch egg.


Vegetarian “fish” - As sea vegetables soak up so much of that delicious ocean flavour, you can use them to create a vegan style dish that has all the essence of a seafood dish with none of the sea animals. We recently BBQ’d aubergine fillets (thick slices) and doused them in a creamy white wine sauce with sea vegetables. Voila! You could take this a step further and marinate or cook the aubergine in seaweed.


Other - Japan is all over seaweed and while it is not the same flavour and texture as sea vegetables they do share the overwhelming salty flavour of the sea. For this reason, I’m sure you could swap out or do a mix of seaweed and sea vegetables in many Japanese dishes, like sushi, and get some interesting results.


Disclaimer: Be absolutely sure you can identify what you are picking, and beware of look-alikes which may be poisonous, or make you a bit ill. There are plenty of resources online to research. The best way to identify is to get out there and pick, and cross-reference with a book/picture - ideally, if you can get out with someone experienced that’s the best way.


111 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All