Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Edible wild plants found by the sea – Sea Beet or Wild Spinach


Sea Beet amongst seaweed and rocks. Photo by Steve Andrews


Sea beet is a common edible plant found at the top of beaches and near the sea in the UK and Europe.
Its leaves are very good cooked as greens and taste very much like spinach. This is not surprising because the plant is an ancestor of cultivated spinach beet and beetroot. In fact, the sea beet is also known as wild spinach.

It produces masses of glossy dark green oval or diamond-shaped leaves in rosettes that can be found all year around. Its flowers are small and greenish and form in summer and autumn.

Sea beet can be found growing amongst pebbles and rocks at the top of a beach and on coastal land and is easy to recognise. You are not likely to find anything else looking like poking its greenery through the pebbles. It can be found growing where seaweed and other floating rubbish has been washed up by the tide.


The leaves of Sea Beet. Photo by Steve Andrews


The stems of sea beet and the leaf stalks sometimes have a purplish-red colouration which shows their link with beetroots.

The leaves of sea beet can be eaten raw in salads as well as being cooked like spinach. Many people think their flavour is actually better than spinach we grow and buy.

Richard Mabey recommends it strongly in Food For Free his classic book on foraging which is now in its fortieth year and contains info with illustrations for some 200 types of edible plant and wild mushroom.

The sea beet is known to botanists as Beta vulgaris ssp. maritma and used to be classed as in the Chenopodiaceae but it is now in the Amaranthaceae. Many other plants in this family, such as the goosefoot (Chenopodium album), are also edible.
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