Identify Sea Spray

Sea Spray (Suaeda maritima)

How to Identify Sea Blite 

Photo credit: Vatadoshu https://commons.m.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Soude_maritime(6)aa.jpg#mw-jump-to-license

Edible

Scientific Name: Suaeda Maritima 

Family: Amaranthaceae

Also known as: Seepweed, Sea spray, Sea Rosemary (we’re trying to rename it Sea Samphire as its uses are so similar to that of Marsh Samphire)

Habitat:  It grows on salt marshes around the world, native to some places and naturalised in other. Usually found in the higher up sections that aren’t flooded every tide, in full sun. 

Description: Suaeda maritima is an ANNUAL growing to 0.3 m (1ft) by 0.3m (1ft) in upright bunches, leaves and stems a cool shade of glaucous green.

Identifying Features for Sea Blite/ Sea Spray:

Leaves – The leaves are 0.5-4 cm long and 1–3 mm broad, shaped like succulent fleshy needles, connected directly to the stem.  They superficially looking a bit like the garden rosemary that gives it its other common name (Sea Rosemary), although the two plants are not closely related.  The whole plant is glaucous, meaning it has a cloudy bluish-grey shimmer to it like the skin of a grape.   

Flowers – The flowers are tiny and green, nestling where the leaves meet the stem. The buds look a bit like tiny brussels sprouts, which then open into 5 sections revealing little cream anthers carrying the pollen 

Stems – when young they start with one stem growing straight upwards, but as they mature more branching stem grow from the sides and base. the stems are usually the same shade of glaucous green as the leaves, or occasionally turn purplish-red towards autumn or in drought conditions

Photo credit: Meneerke bloem https://commons.m.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Suaeda_maritima_001.JPG#mw-jump-to-license

Uses

Food

Leaves – raw or lightly cooked. They can be added to salads or mixed with other leaves and cooked as a potherb. They contain a lot of salt from the environment, so can be used almost as seasoning sprinkled on a finished dish; the young shoots can be pickled.

Medicine

None known, though some articles suggest an extract may have an antioxidant and hepatoprotective effect (protecting the liver from damage) in rodents

Known hazards

 Sea blite is a metallophyte, which means it can absorb and hold onto heavy metals from polluted ground. These concentrate more in the roots than the stems, but all the same, it would be unwise to pick it from places that are known to be heavily polluted. Though to be fair, you wouldn’t want to eat anything picked on contaminated ground anyway!

Harvesting

Appears in spring, and is in flower from May to October.

Potential lookalikes

Samphire or Glasswort. (Salicornia europaea) When young Sea blite can look a bit like samphire, and it grows in the same places. However, Blite grows much taller and has the needle-like leaves clearly separate from the stem

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