Sea Beet: The Wild Grandfather of the Veg Plot

All hail the magnificent Sea Beet! So green, so succulent, so big and bright in the bareness and bleakness of winter!

Sea Beet Sea BeetWhere would we be without Sea Beet? Just look how rich and luscious these leaves are even now, slap bang in the middle of January. A lot of the literature on foraging will tell you that Sea Beet is only available from spring through to about the end of November – but I know of a good few plants that are just as productive all year round (there was even some fresh young growth coming through on this one (right)). And this is just as well, for at this time of year the forager’s vegetable rack can be starting to look a bit bare. 

Meet the Beets

But it isn’t just us foragers who would be feeling a bit hungry and hard done by at the moment if it wasn’t for this most fecund of plants. Without the incredibly versatile genetic properties of Sea Beet, plenty of domestic store cupboards and veg plots might too be feeling a little empty…

Over the centuries Wild Sea Beet has been cultivated into a multitude of domestic forms, some of which are the very staples of kitchen gardens and cupboards. This very Sea Beetplant is the common ancestor of no less than:

  • Perpetual Garden Spinach
  • Sugar Beet (from which we farm sugar)
  • The Chards (Swiss, Rainbow, etc.)
  • Beetroot
  • And even good old Mangel Wurzel

What a very proud parent Sea Beet must be.

Identification

See my Edible Greens A-Z page for full pictures and description.

Eating

All parts of Sea Beet are edible, including the summer flowers and roots (the roots can often be quite swollen and look very tempting, but please be aware that it is illegal to dig Sea Beet, Bacon and Potato Tartup any wild plant without the landowner’s permission). The flowers are perhaps the sweetest part of the plant, but the real abundance comes from the leaves. These taste and behave (when cooked) so much like Garden Spinach, that you’ll wonder why you ever parted with your hard earned cash for something that is so similar and can be had for free. The flavour of Sea Beet is most definately stronger than cultivated Spinach, however, and, especially with the big fat older leaves, can sometimes be quite bitter when eaten raw. But the bitterness is invariably mellowed with cooking, and you can use Sea Beet in any recipe that calls for Spinach or Chard. Try out some of fellow blogger Chica Andaluza’s Spinach and Chard recipes using Sea Beet – you won’t be disapointed. I made a Sea Beet, Smoked Bacon and Potato Tart with what I collected – and very nice it was, too.

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About J P Waldron

J P Waldron is a Professional Writer and Editor from Cornwall. He works and writes for the London based publishing house Freudian Scripts LTD, who are soon to publish his first book for children, 'The Magical Pump'. He is also a writer for the reputed web-based company markITwrite, where he specialises in the wild cuisine of the UK hedgerows, and all things foodie. He is the author of the successful foraging blog 'First Time Foragers: Recipes and Stories for Beginners', where he delivers regular posts offering a free field-guide to UK foraging for all. With a First-Class Honours Degree in English with Creative Writing, he has recently completed an MA in Professional Writing at University College Falmouth, Cornwall.
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6 Responses to Sea Beet: The Wild Grandfather of the Veg Plot

  1. Another great post – thank you for the mention and the link! The photo of the beet looks very much like our Spanish chard and the idea of putting it into a smoked bacon and potato tart sounds very good indeed.

  2. You’re very welcome. I love your site, and I’ll try to link to it as much as I can.

  3. ceciliag says:

    What a joy to find you. Tanya sent me over!! I love the idea of this tart too with leaves you have collected. I look forward to studying your A-Z.. c

  4. lt says:

    I clicked on this post thinking that it was a type of seaweed!!! Sadly mistaken, but the info is useful all the same.

    Any chance of doing some posts on edible algaes? I’d love to try a few but apart from the few varieties I studied for school biology I’m clueless!!

    • Hello! I’m afraid I don’t know anything at all about algaes – edible or otherwise. In fact I wasn’t even aware that there were such things as edible algaes. I will investigate and post my findings (when I get around to it, that is!) But thank you very much for the comment and this revelation.
      John

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