Scurvy Grass (Cochlearia officinalis) identification

Scurvy Grass / spring / summer / autumn / winter / edible


Common Name:

Common Scurvy Grass, Danish Scurvy Grass, English Scurvy Grass


Latin Name

Cochlearia officinalis


Family

Brassicaceae.

Growing on rock near a salt water body


Season

There is a scurvy grass for most of the growing season, and they make a welcome appearance early in the year during the ‘hungry period’.

English: April – Sept


Could be Confused with:

Other mustard family plants, but few have the same succulence and live in coastal regions.

Lesser Celandine is potential confusion, but does not tend to grow coastally, does tend to have whitish variegation on the leaves (which are also much more distinctly heart-shaped) and has bright yellow flowers.


Habitat:

Found where salt levels tend to be high; near the coast, in salt marshes and along roadsides.


Range and Distributions:

English: often shingle shores of England, Holland, Belgium and Germany, particularly in the eastern and southern regions.


Conservation Considerations:

Follow the British Botanical Council’s rule of 1 in 20 for each individual site.


Physical Characteristics:

Leaves

They grow low to the ground, sometimes out of walls, concrete paths or other rocky areas, and have fleshy, succulent leaves that help the plant to cope with the near toxic levels of salt near the seaside. Also found growing near roads. The leaves tend to be rounded at the base and slightly pointed at the end, and join the stalk one at a time. They grow from a basal rosette.

Kristian Peters — Fabelfroh 12:57, 19 November 2006 (UTC), CC BY-SA 3.0 <http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/>, via Wikimedia Commons

Flowers

Flowers are the characteristic 4 petalled blossoms of the mustard family and form clusters that become very dense as the season wears on.

H. Zell, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

Seeds

The seeds are round.

KrisMaes, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

Edible Uses:

Scurvy Grass leaves and flowers have a strong, peppery taste (cousin to horseradish!) that make them a delicious addition to salads, quiches, coastal dishes or early springtime soups. It is relatively potent so be sure you like it before filling your basket!

The young seeds are round, crunchy and very peppery – great for garnishing and pickling. Once they get older they get a little too tough to enjoy.

The young flowering tops – like with most plants in the brassica family – can be used as a version of sprouting broccoli.

H. Zell, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

Medicinal Uses:

Like many members of the mustard family, the hot taste denotes chemicals that stimulate the circulation and are often antimicrobial. Include them in your diet regularly to receive these tonic benefits.


Extra Points, Tips and Fun Facts:

Allegedly dried and bundled for long sea voyages during Tudor times. However, the vitamin C the sailors craved would have oxidised during the drying process, making this a futile venture!

Scurvy grass is making its way around the roads of the UK at a rate of 10-15 miles per year (according to the Field Studies Council) due to seeds being caught in car tyres and distributed in hedges far and wide!

Scurvy Grass has the characteristic 4 petalled flowers.  If you Learn to recognise this flower pattern you will unlock a huge range of edibles in the UK!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

X
X
X