Will's Wild Food Diary

 Wild food diary

Fresh, organic and free! Of all things bushcrafty, nothing gets me more excited than a foraging adventure.

From time to time, I update this page with a different wild food that is in season- gradually building up an online reference on some of the foraging delights available to us.

In addition, I write a 'Wild in the kitchen' blog for the UK's leading site for professional chefs. 

If you would like to know about new posts please join the mailing list or give the FB page a 'like.' Facebook

Disclaimer: There's loads of good stuff to eat out there and much of it is very easy to identify. Unfortunatly, there are also some plants and fungi that can make you seriously ill or worse. This diary is a brief overview intended to inspire and not a substitute for a good field guide and teacher. I will endeavour to point out any obvious poisionous look alikes but ultimately foraging is the individual's responsibility. Unless you are 100 percent confident you know what something is then leave it alone! Please also be aware that, as with any food, different people can have different reactions so it is good practice to always try just a small amount first.

 RSS Feed

Category: Sea beet

  1. Sea beet- how terribly vulgar

    Posted on


    Sea beet- HengistburyIt's mid-winter, but on the coast one of my favourite nutrient rich greens is still braving the elements- Sea beet (Beta vulgaris maritima). 
     
    It's a regular feature of the cliffs and harbours around Dorset and is fairly common along much of the UK coastline (generally if a plant has vulgaris in it's botanical name it means it's common- hence snobby Victorians refering to the masses as vulgar).
     
    And we have a lot to thank this humble plant for as it is the ancient ancestor to popular garden veg such as perpetual spinach, chard and beetroot. Even sugar beet, which supplies the UK with around 50% of its raw sugar, has it's origins in this unassuming plant. 
     
    The leaves can be eaten raw but I find them quiteSea beet,chanterelle,bean in creamy cheese tough .* However, a few minutes light steaming and they're transformed into a succulent veg- very similar to a rich, full-bodied spinach. And like spinach, the culinary applications are virtually limitless. The pic to the right was tonights meal- sea beet, winter chanterelle mushrooms and kidney beans in a light cream cheese sauce.
     
    Foraging considerations.
     
    Some books will tell you this plant doesn't grow through the winter but I find it year round. The top pic is on the edge of Christchurch harbour a few weeks ago- although I would be careful about gathering here due to the large amounts of passing dogs. 
     
    The leaves vary quite a bit in size from around 5cm in length up to 20 cm but, once you've 'got your eye in,' they have a pretty distinct apperance- they are a dark glossy green in colour with a thick succulent texture and always grow from a central rosette. In summer, sea beet produces tiny flowers in tall dense spikes which can further aid identification- these are also edible. It's presence close to the sea is another helpful ID point.
     
    sea beet leafI must finally mention that Sea beet contains oxalic acid which can inhibit the body's ability to absorb calcium and other minerals and, in frequent large amounts, may contribute to kidney stones. For someone eating a balanced diet, there should not be cause for alarm as most green vegetables contain oxalic acid The fact that Sea Beet is uncultivated and has a fairly strong taste suggests it probably has quite a high amount but, from the research I have done across various sources, unless you are eating it very frequently in large helpings it should not be an issue- let us not overlook the fact that this humble little green is incredibly rich in essentials such as folic acid, potassium, magnesium and vitamin C and K.
     
    * Cooking also helps to break down oxalic acid.
     
    ** Some medical professionals advise, as a precautionary measure, avoiding all vegetables with oxalic acid if you suffer from kidney disorders, gout or rhematoid arthritis.