Sea beet

I was out walking the other day and went through the boatyard and round to follow the little channel, locally known as a pill, down to the River Axe. In the end it was too muddy and very slippery and I turned back. We’ve had such a lot rain and although the last couple of days have been sunny and bright, there’s not been anywhere near enough sunshine or brightness to dry the land to any extent.

The dog and I rounded a corner on the narrow track, fence restraining bushes on one side, slippery descent to the water meadow on the other side and there was a lady with her behind in the air, gathering something from  beside the fence. It was one of those comedy moments when dog’s nose and lady’s rear collided and she gave a little jump and he gave a little ‘whuf’! She was momentarily indignant and i quickly apologised and the dog became interested in something else.

I asked her what she was picking – they were green leaves, that was all I could see; I didn’t quite hear what she said but didn’t like to ask again but instead enquired why she was picking them. To eat, of course, she replied as if I was a bit dim. I’d actually met another lady on the beach who was also gathering this but she was an artist and either going to paint them or make some sort of dye. I told the leaf gathering lady and she was interested and became more friendly.

She told me the leaves were full of minerals, much more so than spinach and she ate them all through the winter. I’m not sure I would have fancied them growing right there, near where so many dogs walk, but I was interested and we chatted more about this apparently amazing plant. She told me she picked a big bunch, washed it and then stored it in the fridge and it lasted ages.

When I got home I looked up  edible maritime plants, and on a lovely Cornish site found it, and also other edible seaweeds and shoreline plants. The lady’s favourite wonderfood is sea beet or sea spinach and it is the ancestor of vegetables we all know well, such as  beetroot, sugar beet, and Swiss chard. It tastes delicious apparently! I won’t be picking any where the lady was harvesting – but I will keep an eye open for it elsewhere on my  wanderings by the sea.

Here is a link to the Cornish site, Down The Cove – it’s the page which tells you about seaweed:

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