Foraged Sea Fennel
Inventory, lb : 0
Sea Fennel grows low to the ground and consists of many slender, elongated, branching leaves that are attached to thick, fleshy stems. The leaves are smooth, straight to slightly curved, and have a dusty, green-grey appearance due to a waxy coating thatrevents evaporation and protects the moisture within the leaves. The leaves are also attached to prominent stems that are tough and fibrous at the base. Underneath the leaf’s surface, the flesh is crisp, aqueous, and pale green, and in the summer, the plant bears small, yellow-white flowers. Sea Fennel is highly aromatic when lightly crushed and is crunchy with a salty, tangy, vegetal taste with flavors reminiscent of parsley, carrot, and asparagus.
Sea Fennel is available year-round.
Sea Fennel, botanically classified as Crithmum maritimum, is a perennial, low-growing shrub that reaches up to sixty centimeters in height and belongs to the Apiaceae family. Also known as Samphire and Rock Samphire, Sea Fennel is not commercially cultivated and is only gathered from the wild by hand. Found along coastal cliffs, rocks, and in sandy areas, Sea Fennel used to be a prevalent foraged plant in the Mediterranean and United Kingdom but was almost foraged to the brink of extinction. Over time, the plant had largely fallen out of favor, but it has recently seen an increase in popularity in the European gastronomic scene and is being brought back for its salty, green flavor.
Sea Fennel is an excellent source of vitamin C and also contains antioxidants.
Sea Fennel is recommended to be lightly cooked before consumption and is popularly blanched to maintain its salty crunch. The young leaves and stems are commonly added to salads, minced into sauces such as pesto, used to flavor butter, sautéed and served with cooked meats, or mixed into eggs and omelets. Sea Fennel also complements the flavors of seafood and are served with fish, shellfish, and sushi. The leaves can be tossed into soups, pickled in vinegar for extended use, or used to flavor and garnish cocktails. In addition to fresh preparations, Sea Fennel can be dried and ground into a seasoning to flavor pasta, rice, soups, and salad. Sea Fennel pairs well with meats such as fish, shellfish, pork, and quail eggs, broad beans, olives, capers, artichokes, and lemon juice. The fresh leaves will keep up to one week when stored in the refrigerator and can also be blanched and frozen for a couple of months.
In England, Sea Fennel was initially used to prevent scurvy and became a popular home garden plant to grow in select regions of the country. It has also been used in traditional medicine throughout the Mediterranean, and in Spain, it is believed that the leaves have diuretic and cleansing properties. In Italy, the leaves are used in a decoction to help reduce symptoms of colds, digestive issues, and coughs. In modern day, the leaves are still used as a natural diuretic to help clean the digestive system.
Sea Fennel is native to salty coastlines of the European Atlantic, in the Mediterranean, and along the Black Sea and has been foraged since ancient times. Today the fleshy plant is still found in these regions, though somewhat rare, and is protected in some countries to prevent overharvesting. Sea Fennel is also found in regions of Greece, Britain, Ireland, the Canary Islands, Australia, North Africa, and Central and North America.