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 a seasonal diary of some of the foraging delights available to us.

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Disclaimer: there's lots of good wild stuff to eat, and much of it is fairly easy to identify. Unfortunately, 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 an in-depth field guide and/or skilled teacher. I will endeavour to point out any obvious poisionous look alikes, but ultimately foraging is the individual's responsibility. Unless you are 100 per cent confident you know what something is, leave it alone! Also, please be aware that, as with any food, different people can have different reactions. It is wise to try just a small amount first.

No pain – no purslane

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The briney edges of the land can offer all sorts of exciting wild foods.Sea_Purslane

I've covered a few in previous blogs (alexanders, sea beet and seaweed), so I thought this month it would be fun to do some experimenting with sea purslane (Atriplex portulacoides).

Sea purslane is a common plant of estuaries and salt marshes and last weekend’s foray saw me walking the edge of Christchurch harbour – straight into the teeth of  a late-winter blast coming off Siberia – complete with snow flurries and red-raw fingers (foraging in gloves is very hard).

If it could express an opinion, sea purslane would no doubt sneer deprecatingly at me. For it’s a tough and hardy life-form that seems to thrive in the harsh salty elements.

I occasionally pop a few leaves in a sarnie, while last years coastal wild-food walk at Colourfest saw us all having an impromptu nibble. This time however, I thought I would sea purslane- colourfest 2be more experimental by utilising its crunchy texture in a  wild risotto. The main ingredients, alongside the risotto rice and sea purslane, were common mallow, wild garlic and jelly ear mushrooms. It made for an excellent meal, and even after a fairly lengthy simmer, the purslane retained a satisfying crunchy texture.

sea purslane risWhen cooked, the intense saltiness seems to diminish so that it becomes just like a tasty wild green that might be foraged in the woods or fields. This is a good thing when eating a fairly generous amount, but also a shame in some ways, as I rather enjoy the salty taste.

My second experiment therefore was to use purslane raw. I dehydrated it for a couple of days in an airing cupboard, and then, once it was dry and brittle, I put it through the blender. The result was a crunchy salty condiment that should last for many months. It will be sprinkled sparingly over salads, stews and scrambled eggs (and various other things too). The pic below was taken prior to blending; with the leaves just roughly crumbled over some wild-garlic soup.

sea purslane condiment

Foraging considerations.

Sea Purslane can be found throughout the year around most estuaries and salt marshes in the UK, and it does not have any obvious lookalikes. Its distinctive habitat is a very helpful ID point – I’ve never seen any on the open coast or inland.

It’s a low straggling plant with tangles of succulent oval leaves between one and two centimetres long. If you look closely, the leaves have tiny papery scales. These act as armour against the elements, as well as giving the plant a slightly-silver sheen – indeed it's likely that its common name comes from the word ‘porcelain’. The photo at the top of this post was taken in the summer with the simple red flowers (also edible). At the moment you will only find the leaves.

It is hard to find reliable information on the nutritional content of sea purslane. However, there is a good chance that it shares some of the nutritional value of a cultivated, but related, inland plant simply called Purslane. This is often eaten in the eastern Mediterranean, Middle East and Asia, and according to Cookipedia, contains more omega-3 fatty acids than any other leafy vegetable – as well as a good dose of vitamins A and C and dietary minerals.









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