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Sea Aster 

Other names: Tripolium pannonicum, Summer’s Farewell

Aster tripolium

Sea Aster - foraging recipesA salty coastal green, with decent crunch and plenty of flavour – it tastes like it’s doing you good. Many folks argue that Sea Aster is better than the more fashionable Marsh Samphire, it’s certainly easier to get at and offers more of a harvest per plant - we like both!

They grow in the drier mud in tidal marshes and harbour areas just out of the waters reach but they really don’t mind being covered on a regular basis.

 

The plants grow in clusters of lance shaped leaves, with that thicker fleshy nature that seems to come with any salt tolerant coastal plant so are at least 2mm thick. Depending on the age they have an obvious central rib with others lightly visible along the length of the leaf and can have a red tinge to the stem. Another identifying feature is that they tend to develop a slight curve at their tip, likened to a show horn.

The flowers are quite beautiful, sending up a sprig of spectacular purple ‘daisies’ with prominent yellow centres, appearing July and continuing late into September.

 

Lookalikes:

Lax flowered & Common Sea Lavender which apparently won’t do you any harm but hasn’t got such as nice a flavour as Sea Aster grows in the same locations and, the Lax variety looks remarkably close. The flowers are very different though, smaller and clearly not daisy shaped, and its leaves are generally wider with a wavier edge and more rounded tips. There could be a mixture of both species so take your time to identify each leaf picked.

Sea Plantain is a fleshier combination of its inland cousins, with long lance shaped leaves like Ribwort Plantain (albeit more tendril-like) and sporting the recognisable ‘rat tails’ of Common Plantain when flowering and going to seed. Again it’s edible so no real worries if you do mistake it – though it’s nice to know you’re foraging the right thing!

 

Always take care foraging in marsh environments, deep mud can be dangerous. Let someone know where you are going and check the tides before you leave so you don’t get caught out!

 

You can harvest the leaves of Sea Aster from April to October. Give them a good wash since they’re often covered in silty mud despite appearing quite clean at first glance.

 

How to eat it:

Cooked Sea Aster + Samphire - foraging recipesSea Aster doesn’t need much to make it edible, just a minute or so to wilt and a knob of butter – perhaps a pinch of pepper (you won’t need salt!). Like many wild greens I like to combine them with whatever else I have hanging around – this time it was sprigs of Samphire and some frozen peas for good measure but green beans work nicely as well.

 

If you want to go a step further try cutting them finer lengthways and stirring into creamy mashed potato for a coastal twist on Colcannon.

 

Aster leaves keep well sealed and in the fridge, holding their colour and form well into a week.

 

Have you seen Sea Aster growing? Don’t give away the location but leave us a comment below if you think you’ll be trying it in future!

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Sarah is a UK artist and writer with a lifetime interest in camping and survival techniques.

Living the #vanlife since before it was a hashtag and touring on two wheels with her husband Ryan, they have a wealth of camping and motorcycling knowledge to share, and know a thing or two about packing light! read more


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