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Sea Beet / Wild Spinach

Beta vulgaris maritima


Sea beet is the wild ancestor of the familiar vegetables beetroot and chard, and a plant you’ve likely noticed but passed by for favour of dipping a toe in the surf instead. Sea beet is very close in flavour and in nutrition to spinach, perhaps a little on the stronger side and as with other coastal vegetables comes already seasoned with salt. It can be eaten raw but in my opinion is better cooked.


Where to find it:

As its name suggests you’ll find this species by the coast, it grows almost everywhere around the UK coast though somewhat absent from the far North of Scotland. It grows up to an impressive 1.2m in height, usually amongst shingle or sandy soil, though in windier locations it will adopt a more sprawling nature. The plant looks quite similar to a dock (something most people can safely recognise) due to its distinctive flower spikes, curled leaf edges and is also sometimes tinged with red. Due to its adaptation to handle large quantities of sodium in its environment the leaves are thick and fleshy compared to any similar inland lookalikes. The leaves are somewhat triangular and have a shiny, almost waxy feel and vary in size depending on the location and age of the plant from between a couple of inches to nearly a foot in length. The flowers (July – September) technically lack petals and so are green with almost the same texture as the leaves.

Like chard we use the leaves, though the flowers are also edible and so is the root. Be aware that it is illegal to uproot a plant without the landowners permission so is best to stick to the leaves anyway, plus if you dig it up then there’ll be one less plant to harvest on next seasons’ ramblings...

Sea Beet is generally recognised as being good for eating from early spring to around November, but it’s still worth checking out during the winter months as often you’ll be lucky enough to find a plant that’s not too tough or even putting up new growth for the picking.

I like pairing foraged vegetables with something that would be found nearby, so naturally would opt for fish but it doesn’t have to be so if you fancy something else go wild! In fact I encourage it! Its similarity to spinach means can be used in a wide range of dishes in much the same way so if you already have a favourite way of enjoying spinach, why not give sea beet a try instead? It can be the star of the show itself or for whenever you simply want a background green with some extra oomfh. Sea Beet goes especially well with roasted meats, bacon, or cream so it makes a perfect ingredient for a rich winter gratin or something similar! What better to cook up after a day spent out in a brisk coastal wind?



For the sake of giving you something interesting to do with it, I took to the internet for inspiration and found just that courtesy of the foraging foodies at River Cottage. See their original recipe here

I changed things ever so slightly as we had standard Hake instead of smoked Pollack, but it was enjoyable all the same! I give you poached fish fillets with creamed sea beet… it certainly photographs well!Poached fish with creamed sea beetPoached fish with creamed sea beet


Instructions: (serves 2)

1. Place the fish fillets into a saucepan and cover with 150ml milk and 150ml double cream (I also added some of the Lemon Thyme we have growing in our recycled bean tin planters on the 'base camp' shed). Cover and simmer until the fish is just about cooked, leaving it a further minute to finish cooking in the liquid.

2. Remove the fish and keep warm whilst you allow the liquid to continue simmering until reduced by half.

3. Fill a medium sized frying pan with roughly chopped sea beet and fry gently with a knob of butter until wilted but still a vibrant green.

4. Pour the cream mixture over the sea beet and stir for a further minute until well coated, season with pepper (the sea beet should be naturally salty enough) and a squeeze of lemon.

5. Serve alongside the fish, and for an extra filling main meal beside boiled and lightly buttered new potatoes or other vegetables. Enjoy!


So in summary, if ever there could be a valid excuse to head over to the coast this weekend then this might just be it – bah, who am I kidding, you never need an excuse!


Will you be trying Sea Beet yourself? We’d love to hear from you so let us know what you think in the comments below!

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Sarah is an 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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